Reduced paraspinal muscle size and flattening of spinal curvatures have been documented after spaceflight. Assessment of trunk adaptations to hypogravity can contribute to develop specific countermeasures. In this study, parabolic flights were used to investigate spinal curvature and muscle responses to hypogravity. Data from five trials at 0.25g, 0.50g and 0.75g were recorded from six participants, positioned in a kneeling-seated position. During the first two trials, participants maintained a normal, upright posture. In the last three trials, small-amplitude perturbations were delivered in the anterior direction at the T10 level. Spinal curvature was estimated using motion capture cameras. Trunk displacement and contact force between the actuator and participant were recorded. Muscle activity responses were collected using intramuscular electromyography (iEMG) of the deep and superficial lumbar multifidus, iliocostalis lumborum, longissimus thoracis, quadratus lumborum, transversus abdominis, obliquus internus and obliquus externus muscles. The root mean square iEMG and the average spinal angles were calculated. Trunk admittance and muscle responses to perturbations were calculated as closed-loop frequency response functions. Compared with 0.75g, 0.25g resulted in: lower activation of the longissimus thoracis (P=0.002); lower responses of the superficial multifidus at low frequencies (P=0.043); lower responses of the superficial multifidus (P=0.029) and iliocostalis lumborum (P=0.043); lower trunk admittance (P=0.037) at intermediate frequencies; and stronger responses of the transversus abdominis at higher frequencies (p=0.032). These findings indicate that exposure to hypogravity reduces trunk admittance, partially compensated by weaker stabilizing contributions of the paraspinal muscles and coinciding with an apparent increase of the deep abdominal muscle activity.
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