During the long way to Mars: effects of 520 days of confinement (Mars500) on the assessment of affective stimuli and stage alteration in mood and plasma hormone levels.

Research paper by Yue Y Wang, Xiaolu X Jing, Ke K Lv, Bin B Wu, Yanqiang Y Bai, Yuejia Y Luo, Shanguang S Chen, Yinghui Y Li

Indexed on: 04 Apr '14Published on: 04 Apr '14Published in: PloS one


For future interplanetary manned spaceflight, mental issues, as well as physiological problems, must inevitably be considered and solved. Mars500 is a high-fidelity ground simulation experiment that involved 520 days of confined isolation for six multinational crewmembers. This experiment provided a good opportunity to perform psycho-physiological and psycho-social researches on such missions. To investigate emotional responses and psychological adaptation over long-term confinement, the International Affective Pictures System (IAPS) was selected as the visual emotional stimuli in this study. Additional data collected and analyzed included the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire and the levels of four types of plasma hormones: cortisol, 5-hydroxy tryptamine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The results demonstrated an obvious bias on valence rating for unpleasant stimuli with time (p<0.05), and the correlation between psychological and biochemical data was identified (p<0.05). Overall, we concluded that the confined crew tended to assign positive ratings to negative pictures with time, which might be driven by a defensive system. There was a stage-changing pattern of psychological adaptation of the Mars500 crew, which is similar to the third-quarter phenomenon.