Developing exercise countermeasures for the prevention of musculoskeletal deconditioning in reduced gravity

Northumbria University

PhD 3 years Newcastle, UK

Uploaded 14 Dec 2018

Job Description

Exposure to hypogravity environment causes musculoskeletal deconditioning. Primarily, this deconditioning is seen in the lower limbs and spine. In an attempt to attenuate this deconditioning, astronauts exposed to hypogravity aboard the International Space Station currently spend significant time. The currently used exercise countermeasures are unable to prevent deconditioning to the spine and the intrinsic muscles that maintain spinal posture. As a result, astronauts are at significantly increased risk of spinal injury on return to a gravity loading environment. 

The Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory has been investigating the effects of hypogravity on spinal muscle control to inform the development of new exercise countermeasures that could be used in microgravity, or in other planetary gravitational levels. In parallel to the experimental studies, the Aerospace Medicine Systematic Review Group continuously synthesises the evidence base in the field to feed best practice into medical operational guidelines and decision making processes. This project aims to extend this research to synthesise current evidence related to, and then investigate the experimental effects of, simulated hypogravity on physiological and biomechanical systems during exercise on potential countermeasures that could prevent spinal musculoskeletal deconditioning. 

The laboratory has developed a gravitational unloading harness system that can be positioned over relevant exercise countermeasures such as the Functional Re-adaptive Exercise Device (FRED). Using state-of-the-art wireless technology, the project will explore how exercising on these potential countermeasures leads to changes in spinal muscle recruitment and kinematics. The nature of the exercise countermeasures can then be optimised through modifications to the exercise approach in order to make recommendations to the space agencies on how spinal musculoskeletal deconditioning could be prevented during human space exploration missions, with more of an emphasis on reduced gravity conditions such as Lunar and Martian surface to compliment ongoing lab research activities. 

Person Specification

Eligibility and How to Apply: 

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.