Human locomotion in hypogravity: From basic research to clinical applications

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

We have considerable knowledge about the mechanisms underlying compensation of Earth gravity during locomotion, a knowledge obtained from physiological, biomechanical, modeling, developmental, comparative, and paleoanthropological studies. By contrast, we know much less about locomotion and movement in general under sustained hypogravity. This lack of information poses a serious problem for human space exploration. In a near future humans will walk again on the Moon and for the first time on Mars. It would be important to predict how they will move around, since we know that locomotion and mobility in general may be jeopardized in hypogravity, especially when landing after a prolonged weightlessness of the space flight. The combination of muscle weakness, of wearing a cumbersome spacesuit, and of maladaptive patterns of locomotion in hypogravity significantly increase the risk of falls and injuries. Much of what we currently know about locomotion in hypogravity derives from the video archives of the Apollo missions on the Moon, the experiments performed with parabolic flight or with body weight support on Earth, and the theoretical models. These are the topics of our review, along with the issue of the application of simulated hypogravity in rehabilitation to help patients with deambulation problems. We consider several issues that are common to the field of space science and clinical rehabilitation: the general principles governing locomotion in hypogravity, the methods used to reduce gravity effects on locomotion, the extent to which the resulting behavior is comparable across different methods, the important non-linearities of several locomotor parameters as a function of the gravity reduction, the need to use multiple methods to obtain reliable results, and the need to tailor the methods individually based on the physiology and medical history of each person.

Original languageEnglish
Article number893
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume8
Issue numberNOV
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 7 2017

Keywords

  • Body weight support
  • Human locomotion
  • Hypogravity simulators
  • Locomotion rehabilitation
  • Moon walk
  • Parabolic flight
  • Robotic gravity-assist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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