A person’s perception of their world is dependent on their orientation, whether they are sideways, upside down or upright, which is determined by three senses – force and motion sensors in the major joints of the human body, vision cues, and sensors within the inner ear which detect the pull of gravity.
A team of York researchers, led by Professor Laurence Harris of the Centre for Vision Research and chair of the Department of Psychology, have already begun studying how the brain uses these senses to maintain orientation in a weightless environment or during space flight through the Bodies in the Space Environment (BISE) project.
In a recent YouTube video (below), Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk talks about the research and its benefits. He is one of six astronauts involved in the study. The idea of BISE, says Thirsk, is to get a better understanding of how the neurological system adapts to weightlessness and to learn how human beings use sensory information in a disorienting environment. One example would be pilots flying in bad weather conditions without reference to the ground, who somehow manage to maintain their orientation.
The study will also allow researchers to better understand how people who are blind, who have a disease in the vestibular apparatus of their ear or who don’t have strong body cues, manage to maintain orientation. The results could help develop treatments to help people in these situations manage their orientation better.
For more information, visit the BISE Web site.