Space flight induces a marked cephalad (headward) redistribution of blood and interstitial fluid potentially resulting in a loss of venous tone and reduction in heart muscle efficiency upon introduction into the microgravity environment. Using various types of computational models, we are investigating how this fluid redistribution may induce intracranial pressure changes, relevant to reported reductions in astronaut visual acuity, part of the Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) syndrome. Methods: We utilize a lumped parameter cardiovascular system (CVS) model, augmented by compartments comprising the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) space, as the primary tool to describe how microgravity, and the associated lack of hydrostatic gradient, impacts fluid redistribution. Models of ocular fluid pressures and biomechanics then accept the output of the above model as boundary condition input to allow more detailed, local analysis (see IWS Abstract by Ethier et al.). Recently, we enhanced the capabilities our previously reported CVS model through the implementation of robust autoregulatory mechanisms and a more fundamental approach to the implementation of hydrostatic mechanisms. Modifying the approach of Blanco et al., we implemented auto-regulation in a quasi-static manner, as an averaged effect across the span of one heartbeat. This approach reduced the higher frequency perturbations from the regulatory mechanism and was intended to allow longer simulation times (days) than models that implement within-beat regulatory mechanisms (minutes). A more fundamental approach to hydrostatics was implemented by a quasi-1D approach, in which compartment descriptions include compartment length, orientation and relative position, allowed for modeling of body orientation, relative body positioning and, in the future, alternative gravity environments. At this time the inclusion of hydrostatic mechanisms supplies additional capabilities to train and validate the CVS model with terrestrial data. Results and Conclusions: With the implementation of auto-regulation and hydrostatic modeling capabilities, the model performs as expected in the maintaining the CA (Central Artery) compartment pressure when simulating orientations ranging from supine to standing. The model appears to generally overpredict heart rate and thus cardiac output, possibly indicating sensitivity to the nominal heart rate, which is used as an initial set point of the regulation mechanisms. Despite this sensitivity, the model performs consistently for many hours of simulation time, indicating the success of our quasi-static implementation approach.
NASA Human Research Program Investigators Workshop (HRP IWS 2017); 23-26 Jan. 2017; Galveston, TX; United States