Posturography and locomotor tests of dynamic balance after long-duration spaceflight

J Vestib Res. 2012;22(4):191-6. doi: 10.3233/VES-2012-0456.


The currently approved objective clinical measure of standing balance in astronauts after space flight is the Sensory Organization Test battery of computerized dynamic posturography. No tests of walking balance are currently approved for standard clinical testing of astronauts. This study determined the sensitivity and specificity of standing and walking balance tests for astronauts before and after long-duration space flight. Astronauts were tested on an obstacle avoidance test known as the Functional Mobility Test (FMT) and on the Sensory Organization Test using sway-referenced support surface motion with eyes closed (SOT 5) before and six months after (n=15) space flight on the International Space Station. They were tested two to seven days after landing. Scores on SOT tests decreased and scores on FMT increased significantly from pre- to post-flight. In other words, post-flight scores were worse than pre-flight scores. SOT and FMT scores were not significantly related. ROC analyses indicated supra-clinical cut-points for SOT 5 and for FMT. The standard clinical cut-point for SOT 5 had low sensitivity to post-flight astronauts. Higher cut-points increased sensitivity to post-flight astronauts but decreased specificity to pre-flight astronauts. Using an FMT cut-point that was moderately highly sensitive and highly specific plus SOT 5 at the standard clinical cut-point was no more sensitive than SOT 5, alone. FMT plus SOT 5 at higher cut-points was more specific and more sensitive. The total correctly classified was highest for FMT, alone, and for FMT plus SOT 5 at the highest cut-point. These findings indicate that standard clinical comparisons are not useful for identifying problems. Testing both standing and walking balance will be more likely to identify balance deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Locomotion*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postural Balance*
  • Posture
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Space Flight*
  • Vestibular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Walking / physiology