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China's space station sets up brain activity testing platform


Taikonauts conducting EEG experiments in China's space station. /China Media Group
Taikonauts conducting EEG experiments in China's space station. /China Media Group

Taikonauts conducting EEG experiments in China's space station. /China Media Group

China has established a brain activity testing platform in its space station for electroencephalogram (EEG) experiments, completing the first stage of the country's in-orbit construction of EEG research.

"We conducted the first EEG experiment during the Shenzhou-11 crewed mission, which verified the in-orbit applicability of brain-computer interaction technology through brain-controlled robots," Wang Bo, researcher at China Astronaut Research and Training Center, told China Media Group.

Researchers from the center's Key Laboratory of Human Factors Engineering, in close collaboration with multiple batches of Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts, have formed a series of standard procedures for EEG tests through ground experiments and in-orbit verification.

"We have also made some breakthroughs," said Wang.

Taking the rating model for the mental load measurement as an example, Wang said their model, compared with the conventional one, integrates data from more dimensions such as physiology, performance and behavior, which can improve the model's accuracy and make it more practical.

The research team has achieved results in establishing data models to measure mental fatigue, mental load and alertness.

Wang outlined the three targets of their EEG research. One is to see how the space environment impacts human brain. The second is to look at how human brain adapts to the space environment and reshapes the nerves, and the last is to develop and verify technologies for enhancing brain power as taikonauts always perform a lot of fine and complicated operations in space.

Brain-computer interaction is also a promising technology for future application in space. 

"The technology is to convert people's thinking activities into instructions, which is very helpful for multitask or remote operations," said Wang.

The technology is expected to be applied in extravehicular activities, as well as in some man-machine coordination, ultimately improving the overall efficiency of the system, he added.

In the long term, the in-orbit EEG research is to explore the mysteries of human brain evolution in the universe and reveal the important mechanisms in the evolution of living beings, providing new perspectives for the development of brain-like intelligence.

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