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NASA TECHNOLOGY USED TO IMPROVE HEALTH



Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington           Jan. 7, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1979)
 
Victoria Steiner
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
(Phone: 650/604-0176)
 
RELEASE: 03-006
 
NASA TECHNOLOGY USED TO IMPROVE HEALTH
 
     NASA developed an innovative technology to help 
astronauts combat motion sickness during space flight. That 
technology becomes available in March for a much wider range 
of human health and performance uses.
 
Dr. Mae C. Jemison, America's first African-American female 
astronaut, and BioSentient Corporation, Houston, obtained 
the license to commercialize the space-age technology known 
as Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE). AFTE was 
originally developed by Dr. Patricia Cowings of NASA's Ames 
Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The technique is a 
patented combination of biofeedback and autogenic therapy 
that allows individuals to eliminate or minimize their 
unwanted physical responses to outside stimuli by 
controlling their autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is 
responsible for controlling and regulating involuntary 
bodily functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, sweating, 
blood vessel dilation and glandular secretions.
 
"What were previously considered involuntary, or autonomic, 
responses are in fact under voluntary control if you are 
taught properly," said Cowings, who developed AFTE. "I have 
never met anyone who could not control their bodily 
responses to some degree the first time they tried. It's a 
function of knowing what to do," she said.
 
AFTE consists of a system of compact, ambulatory equipment 
to measure, record and display real-time ANS functions. It 
is combined with a unique six to 12-hour training session to 
teach individuals how to control their physiology using the 
feedback from the equipment. Advancing the original design, 
BioSentient has created a seamless system that includes a 
garment a person wears that can measure and wirelessly 
transfer physiologic data in real time; a small wrist 
display; and a computer station that a trainer can use to 
capture the data, monitor and teach a person the regulation 
techniques.
 
In various controlled studies conducted at NASA, Cowings 
found that AFTE is 85 percent effective in reducing motion 
side effects in both men and women, and individuals for up 
to three years after initial training retain it. Since the 
mid-1980s, AFTE has been used successfully with U.S. 
astronauts, payload specialists and Russian cosmonauts. It 
has been used successfully to return U.S. Navy pilots 
suffering severe airsickness to active duty in high-
performance aircraft.
 
"BioSentient is examining AFTE as a treatment for anxiety, 
nausea, migraine and tension headaches, chronic pain, 
hypertension, hypotension, and other stress-related 
disorders," Jemison said. She took the training and 
successfully used it during her Space Shuttle flight, STS-
47, in 1992. "Over 13 percent of adult Americans suffer from 
anxiety disorders, like the public speaker who panics or the 
athlete who 'chokes' on the field. With AFTE these 
individuals can learn to control that anxiety without it 
controlling them," she said.
 
"Other potential beneficiaries of AFTE include business 
executives, homeland security and law enforcement officers, 
air traffic controllers, nuclear power plant operators and 
others working in hazardous materials occupations where 
optimal personal performance and situational awareness are 
essential," added Jemison, who also is a physician and 
chemical engineer.
 
Those who provide services to patients such as 
psychologists, psychiatrists, pyschophysiologists, 
cardiologists, neurologists, physical therapists, athletic 
trainers, biofeedback practitioners and rehabilitation and 
behavioral therapists can use AFTE. By training their 
patients and or trainees, these specialists can teach people 
how to control their physiology without pharmaceutical help.
 
"The commercialization of this NASA technology is an 
outstanding example of applying space research technology to 
improve the quality the quality of life on Earth," noted 
Phil Herlth of the Ames Commercial Technology Office.
 
 
                    -end-
 
                            * * *
 

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