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Challenge

Test a gaming platform and system for efficacy as a countermeasure to reduce at least two spaceflight risks, including at least one in the area of behavioral, neurocognitive, or interpersonal/team performance. Examples of behavioral risks include the development of excess stress, depression, anxiety, self-isolation; examples of neurocognitive risks include impaired memory, ability to assimilate and learn new information and other executive functions; interpersonal or team-based risks include inability to solve conflicts or passive-aggressive behavior.

 
TRISH is soliciting gaming-based approaches to prevention and/or countermeasures for astronauts that simultaneously address multiple risks to health and human performance in deep space exploration.

Background

Gaming has long been demonstrated to improve coordination, processing speeds and response times. However, suitable gaming platforms can also improve problem solving skills, enhance memory, improve attention and concentration, speed learning, and enhance multi-tasking capabilities. As for countermeasures, recent studies suggest that gaming can be used to help reduce symptoms of both depression and anxiety. After playing 3D-world based games, older adults have exhibited enlarged hippocampi, associated with learning and memory. And certain types of multi-player games can support social skills and encourage teamwork, which could potentially improve team-functioning in the “real” world.

Gaming-based systems are designed around a few key features:

  • Progressive: The gaming activity generally provides non-trivial but easily surmounted challenges at first, in part to build confidence and skill. Over time, the challenges become more and more difficult.
  • Adaptive: The in-game tasks continually adapt to the user’s current ability level. This is typically achieved in a progressive game by constantly (and often implicitly) evaluating the user’s performance and providing variable challenges that are at, just below or just above their current performance capabilities.
  • Goal Oriented: Games are often motivating because there is a high score to beat—whether your own personal best, or the scores of other users—or a continuing array of new and interesting challenges to overcome or goals to achieve.
  • Learning: All gaming-based systems involve learning. This often simply involves task-related learning, i.e., how to play the game better. However, games can also be designed so that part of the game’s goal requires learning new generalized performance strategies, coping strategies, or countermeasure activities (e.g., requiring enhanced divided attention, or requiring slow, deep breathing as one of the game tasks).

Recently, NASA has begun investigating “exergaming”: a gaming-based approach to exercise. Exergaming approaches—particularly when involving training partners—have been shown to enhance motivation and improve compliance with regular workouts. However, similar gaming-based approaches have not been investigated for other NASA-relevant risks.

Proposals are expected to address more than one risk area and must clearly report appropriate suitable outcomes and effect sizes to aid comparison with other potential countermeasures for the same risks. Studies must be performed in humans using appropriate laboratory or analog settings or populations similar to astronauts.

TRISH encourages—but does not require—addressing any of the following additional risks:

  • Rehabilitation-based risks (e.g., fracture, sprain, vertebral damage)
  • Adaptation-based risks (e.g., cardiovascular, muscular, or sensorimotor deterioration)
  • Other spaceflight risks given adequate preliminary data or a strongly argued hypothesis

Examples of projects that COULD be considered:

  • Projects that test existing gaming-based systems for their ability to mitigate one or more potential behavioral issues, one or more neurocognitive issues, and one or more interpersonal issues.
  • A project that tests a gaming-based platform for its ability to prevent or mitigate multiple rehabilitation issues (e.g., fracture & sprain) in addition to one or more behavioral, neurocognitive, or interpersonal/team issues.

Examples of projects that WOULD NOT be considered:

  • Any project failing to test the gaming-based solution in humans for its effectiveness in two or more distinct risk areas.
  • Any project exclusively addressing risks in the Rehabilitation, Adaptation, or Other categories.
  • Any project focusing on medications or supplements, although medications or supplements can be used as a comparison condition (esp. for behavioral concerns, as with patient populations).
  • Projects that require excessive amounts of hardware, power, or supplies or would be difficult to implement in spaceflight. This limitation is due to the strict volume and mass restrictions.

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