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Science Publishes a Special Issue on Tianjin University Latest Research Results

 

Science magazine published a new booklet on September 19, 2014, with the title “Human Performance in Space: Advancing Astronautics Research in China”, which revealed the breakthrough of China astronaut research and training obtained in recent years. Two new studies from Tianjin University Neural Engineering and Rehabilitation Lab (TUNERL) were selected for this publication.

In 1992, China established the manned space program with a three-step development strategy. From 1999 to 2013, as many as 10 Shenzhou style space crafts have been launched into space. Chinese achievements in aerospace are recognized by the whole world, especially for the success of rendezvous and docking of space crafts in the last two years. As more astronauts will be sent to space in the future, gaining a clearer understanding of the impact of long-term space travel becomes essential to maintain the well-being of astronauts. Serious consideration has been given to human travel beyond low Earth orbit — where the International Space Station resides — and beyond the moon, possibly to Mars or the moons of Jupiter. Examples of the groundbreaking space research currently underway in China are collected in this booklet, providing the reader with a taste of what future space exploration might look like. As Chinese scientists learn about the effects on the body and mind, they are applying their knowledge to modify equipment, improve astronaut training, and fine-tune the selection process for astronauts. Other scientists and engineers around the world will benefit, and can apply the new information to space programs in their own countries.

The selected work from Tianjin University includes the research work on human mind decoding and its application on space missions. One paper named “Exploring brain-computer interfaces for use in space missions” introduces our latest achievements in hybrid brain-computer interface (BCI) technology and its potential benefits for future space missions. The finding of steady-state visual evoked potential blocking and its successful combination with P300 significantly improves the BCI performance, giving a promising approach for using BCI in future space missions. The other one named “Evaluation of EEG oscillation patterns during simple and compound limb motor imagery” mainly focuses on the brain oscillatory patterns induced by compound limb motor imagery. In contrast to simple limb motor imagery, compound limb motor imagery involves more than one part of the limb, which may activate multiple functional areas of the brain and involve a different cognitive motor process. Additionally, compound limb motor imagery is closer to the daily behavior of human beings, thereby making the motor imagery-based BCI system more flexible. Our study first revealed the differences in EEG patterns between simple and compound limb motor imagery, and based on that a pilot multimodal BCI has been set up for astronautic application. The result provides important theoretical and experimental support for decoding the astronauts’ intentions in future space missions.

Under the support of the National 863 Project, the Science and Technology Support Program and the National Science Foundation for Outstanding Young Talent, the TUNERL led by Professor Dong Ming has a close cooperation with the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, building the bilateral strategic partnership, carrying out a great deal of work on aerospace medical engineering and achieving a number of breakthroughs in the fields of BCI and others. TUNERL’s achievement on BCI technology was selected as one of the highlights of 2013 in the Journal of Neural Engineering (JNE). JNE is the most respectable and influential international journal in the field of neural engineering. Besides, the TUNERL has developed the world’s first mind-control artificial neural rehabilitation robotic system ‘Shen Gong I’, and has achieved positive clinical results. The upgraded ‘Shen Gong II’ is now under development, being smaller, more portable and wearable. The Shen Gong style robotic system integrates a series of new technologies including the detection and analysis of the state of the brain, the maintenance and training of musculoskeletal movement, which are expected to be applied to the astronauts of long-term on-orbit service. Such technologies lay the scientific foundation of aerospace medicine and ergonomic engineering for our country, and accumulate corresponding research strengths for a core technology that could compete with the developed countries.

Science was a general science magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the biggest scientific community in America. Together with Nature, an academic journal from England, Science receives the honor of the best interdisciplinary scientific journal in the world, representing the top level of natural science research.