This Special Training Keeps Astronauts From Vomiting Everywhere

Some people are incredible human beings, who
are mentally and physically so special they earn their place among the select few we call
astronauts. And some people get sick to their stomachs
riding in a car let alone blasting off on a rocket, or heaven forbid in a car on a rocket. And sometimes those people are one and the
same. Thanks to one woman though, talented astronauts
don’t have to be sidelined because their stomachs can’t keep their shrimp cocktail down. Her name is Dr. Patricia Cowings, and she
led the development of the Autogenic-Feedback Training, or AFT. Your autonomic nervous system controls things
you don’t normally think about, like your heart rate, breathing, sweating, digestion,
that sort of thing. And if you’ve ever experienced motion sickness
you may notice those things start to spiral out of control. Dr. Cowings’ training teaches astronauts
how to control what they usually can’t. 50% of astronauts will get motion sick in
space, which makes sense. Your floating and everything is moving and
orbiting… Cowings’ method achieves this by figuring
out where the trainee’s resting levels are, and then strapping them into a rotating chair
that spins the bejesus out of them. Once Cowings knows how stress affects the
trainee, she teaches them autogenic therapy techniques that focus their attention on something
like the sensation in their fingertips. Trainees are taught to focus so well that
they don’t pay attention to anything else like the room spinning round and round. By changing their reaction to stress, trainees
can keep over two dozen bodily systems in check and their lunch down. The AFT method is actually something you can
learn too (sort of). It’s basic operant conditioning, just think
Pavlov’s dogs that were trained to salivate at the sound of a bell…You can train humans
to control their heart rate! All you have to do, says Dr Cowing’s paper
on the topic, is ‘remove the blindfold’ or teach yourself to perceive your heart rate,
your stress level, and so on. Astronauts were put in a rotating chair that
rotated at a different speed from the wall of the room (which were going the opposite direction)
and asked to assess their stress level and autonomic functions every five minutes. Over just a few hours, with the right reinforcement,
they learned to understand their responses and control them! The uses go beyond preventing a mess inside
your space helmet. Astronauts can use these techniques to help
them perform better in stressful situations, or sleep better in microgravity. And amazingly training only takes six hours
over the course of about three weeks. Dr. Cowings work helps astronauts prepare
for the rigors of space, something few of us could probably imagine. Not Dr. Cowings though because before developing
this training for astronauts she went through the rigamarole herself, and holds the distinction
of being not just the first African-American woman to receive scientist astronaut training,
she was the first American woman trained full stop. Dr. Cowings has been contributing science
at NASA for years and we’re happy to celebrate her achievements for Black History Month. If you think this channel has the right stuff
you should subscribe. Think you have what it takes to be an Astronaut? Check out Julian’s video here to find out.Not
only is Dr. Cowings work helping our astronauts, its also helping our soldiers too. The US Army uses it to evaluate how their
vehicles affect soldiers to help them keep combat ready and not get motion sick. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next
time on Seeker!

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