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APS Contact: Stacy Brooks


Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @APSPhysiology

NASA Astronaut-Scientists Speak at APS History of Physiology Group Symposium

Boston (April 1, 2015)— Astronaut-scientists Jay C. Buckey Jr., MD, of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and James A. Pawelczyk, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University, who participated in the 1998 NASA STS-90 space mission, will reunite at the American Physiological Society (APS) annual meeting at the Experimental Biology Meeting. Session Chair Jay Dean, PhD, of University of South Florida, organized the panel for the APS History of Physiology Group symposium.

The panelists will discuss what they discovered about how the brain develops without gravity, how electrical activity in the body flows in space and the logistics of conducting animal experiments in a space lab. This symposium marks the first time in 16 years that the speakers have met to reflect on the science and the findings of the mission.

Also known as the Neurolab Space Shuttle Mission, STS-90 was designed to study how the brain and nervous system operated in an environment with no gravity, focusing on five areas: balance, biorhythms, blood pressure control, nervous system development and how the brain integrates sensory information. “These are all interesting areas of the brain that are affected by gravity,” says Buckey, who was a payload specialist on the mission. “Gravity is an effect that we grow up with, and all life evolved with gravity present,” he explains. “So asking questions about what happens when you’re not experiencing the forces of gravity and how does that influence the parts of the nervous system that sense or work against gravity” made the mission scientifically intriguing.

Over the 16-day mission, the Neurolab’s crew of seven astronauts collected data from a host of experimental animals—rats, mice, crickets, fish, snails—and themselves. “A lot of the things that were done in space,” such as doing surgery on small animals and recording signals from nerves, “were things that were hard to do on the ground,” Buckey says. “So [the mission] not only had an interesting scientific payload but a technically demanding and challenging payload.”

“Many of the things that we did on that mission haven’t been repeated since,” he says. “It was a very complex and challenging mission that stands out as a major life-science research achievement in the space shuttle program.” The findings from STS-90 advanced understanding in areas of physiology, including the cardiovascular system and nervous system development.

The symposium, titled “Neuroplasticity in Space: Reflections from the STS-90 Neurolab Space Shuttle Crew,” will be held on Wednesday, April 1, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM in Room 210 A in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

This presentation coincides with the National Research Council’s Space Science Week, March 31 to April 2, in Washington, D.C., where the committees of the Space Studies Board will convene and discuss advances and issues in their fields.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview or for more information, please contact Stacy Brooks at or (240) 432-9697.


About Experimental Biology 2015

Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six sponsoring societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping current and future clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from throughout across the United States and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.

About the American Physiological Society (APS)

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 11,000 members and publishes 14 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



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