women in aviation and space history

Patricia Cowings

Patricia Cowings
NASM-97-15073
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Patricia Cowings

Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight (208)

A research psychologist in the Biomedical Division of Ames Research Center, Patricia Cowings investigated the psycho-physiological and biological problems experienced by astronauts in space in the early 1980s. Better known as space-sickness, this is a real problem for many astronauts. Cowings' tests induced sickness so she could lean how to combat the effects. Because astronaut training time is precious, she had to come up with a program that would take astronauts no longer than six hours to learn to control the sickness. Cowings designed a program of 12 half-hour sessions combing training with bio-feedback. During training, she teaches a subject to mentally evoke a sensation, like relaxation of muscles, to bring about desired physiological changes such as increased skin temperature or relaxed muscles. Cowings' brand of biofeedback involves having to control as many as 26 physiological functions related to motion sickness. These include such things as heart rate, rate of respiration and the flow of blood to the hands. Subjects learn to regulate these autonomic functions by watching them as they are displayed on an oscilloscope.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)