The harsh environment of space combined with the confined quarters and isolation of extended trips can lead to physical and mental issues. A handful of EVMS junior researchers are exploring the burgeoning field of medicine focused on protecting humans during extended stays in deep space.

For instance, Eric Friedman, MD, and Brian Bui, MD, residents in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, presented “Psychiatric formulary recommendations for long-duration human spaceflight,” at a meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), May 4, in Denver. Their poster was judged to be in the top 5 percent.

The two studied behavioral experiences from previous space flights and from isolated Antarctic research stations to develop a proposed list of medications for future astronauts. Their drug list suggests alternatives for a range of behaviors – from anxiety and depression to mood swings and sleep problems – and takes into account the effectiveness of drugs in microgravity and the potential impact of the space environment.

Other recommendations: frequent monitoring of psychiatric health, the availability of psychotherapy and aggressive treatment in emergencies.

Meanwhile, Jessica Burkett, a PhD candidate in biomedical sciences, will attend NASA Space Radiation Summer School at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. She was one of only 16 chosen worldwide for the highly competitive program.

“My interest in the NASA Summer School emerged after having several discussions with (EVMS radiation researcher) Dr. Richard Britten about the biological effects of space radiation, specifically on changes in brain circuitry and neurotransmission leading to alterations in behavior,” Jessica says. She hopes to gain a practical understanding of how exposure to space radiation is linked to alterations of biological processes.

“With my strong interest and extensive research background in behavioral neuroscience, I hope to have the opportunity to apply my knowledge of rodent behavior and neuropsychopharmacology to better understand how exposure to space radiation affects brain and behavior, as well as propose possible therapeutic strategies to dampen related behavioral deficits.”