Research Summary: Effects of Head-Down Bed Rest on the Executive Functions and Emotional Response


Prolonged bed rest may cause changes in the autonomic nervous system that are related to cognition and emotion. This study adopted an emotional flanker task to evaluate the effect of 45 days -6° head-down bed rest (HDBR) on executive functioning in 16 healthy young men at each of six time points: the second-to-last day before the bed rest period, the eleventh, twentieth, thirty-second and fortieth day during the bed rest period, and the eighth day after the bed rest period. In addition, self-report inventories (Beck Anxiety Inventory, BAI; Beck Depression Inventory, BDI; Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale, PANAS) were conducted to record emotional changes, and the participants’ galvanic skin response (GSR), heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) were assessed as measures of physiological activity. The results showed that the participants’ reaction time on the flanker task increased significantly relative to their responses on the second-to-last day before the period of bed rest, their galvanic skin response weakened and their degrees of positive affect declined during the bed rest period. Our results provide some evidence for a detrimental effect of prolonged bed rest on executive functioning and positive affect. Whether this stems from a lack of aerobic physical activity and/or the effect of HDBR itself remains to be determined.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 17-December-2012

Author(s): Liu Q., Zhou R., Chen S., Tan C.


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