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Jefferson Neurologist Wins Prestigious NASA Innovation Award

01/13/15

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Professor George Brainard, Ph.D., Director of the Light Research Program at Thomas Jefferson University, and a key member of NASA’s flexible lighting team has been selected to receive NASA’s prestigious Johnson Space Center Director’s Innovation Award.  The award will be given to Dr. Brainard tomorrow, Wednesday, January 14th, at the Principal Investigator Workshop/Behavioral Health and Performance Working Group meeting in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Brainard collaborated with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, including Dr. Charles Czeisler, Chief, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders; Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, associate physician; and Dr. Steven Lockly, associate neuroscientist, as well as scientists from NASA.

Dr. Brainard’s team at Jefferson worked on the design and testing of the new lights for the crew of the International Space Station that will allow astronauts to sleep—and perform—better in space.  Currently, astronauts are allocated 8.5 hours per night for sleep, but half the 60 astronauts in a recent study slept six hours or less per 24-hour mission day and were unable to make up the sleep. Over time, their performance declined, posing a serious concern for the overall mission. Sleep deprivation occurred because of the current spacecraft lighting, interruptions, and excitement inherent in space flight.

The new, adjustable L.E.D. lights have three setting, including one that helps astronauts prepare for sleep. They were tested in a special simulation center built in the (video here) Jefferson Light Research Lab. NASA will begin relamping the Space Station next year with the new L.E.D. lights.

Here is the text that accompanies the award:

Johnson Space Center Director’s Innovation Team Award: Establishing the Flexible Space Station Lighting Assembly for the ISS

For initiative and innovation in establishing a new circadian rhythm countermeasure, the flexible Space Station Lighting Assembly for the ISS.

The Space Station Lighting Assembly (SSLA) design revision team demonstrated outstanding leadership and a steadfast commitment to promoting crew health with a new ISS flexible lighting system using Solid State Light Assemblies.  A multidisciplinary team of experts from many NASA organizations, as well as from Harvard University and Thomas Jefferson University, revised the ISS onboard lighting requirements.  NASA participants included representatives from Human Factors, Behavioral Health and Performance, Space Medicine, the Astronaut Office, Mission Operations and Photo/TV.  The team revised lighting requirements to enable the SSLAs to serve as a circadian rhythm countermeasure while still facilitating task performance and photo/TV imaging operations.  A modified SSLA was presented at a Boeing design review and the light emitted met circadian rhythm countermeasure requirements, and was aesthetically pleasing while still permitting adequate photo/TV imaging operations. A great example of research transitioning to operations.

Dr. Brainard said, “It has been exciting to work on the advanced lighting system for the International Space Station.  This new technology opens the door for changes in lighting here on Earth that may improve the health and wellbeing of everyday citizens. The new lighting system for the Space Station is designed to improve both astronauts’ visual stimulation as well as sleep and circadian rhythms.”

About Jefferson — Health is all we do.

Thomas Jefferson University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Jefferson University Physicians are partners in providing the highest-quality, compassionate clinical care for patients, educating the health professionals of tomorrow, and discovering new treatments and therapies that will define the future of healthcare. Thomas Jefferson University enrolls more than 3,600 future physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC); Jefferson Schools of Health Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy, Population Health; and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and is home of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Jefferson University Physicians is a multi-specialty physician practice consisting of over 650 SKMC full-time faculty. Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals is the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia. Services are provided at five locations — Thomas Jefferson University Hospital  and Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Center City Philadelphia; Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia; Jefferson at the Navy Yard; and Jefferson at Voorhees in South Jersey.

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