Research topics

Cognitive processes in extreme environments

We study the impact of extreme conditions on cognitive processes with methods of experimental psychology and brain research. A significant part of our projects is related to space research, notably to experiments sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA). Major projects in this direction are the Neurospat experiment performed on board the International Space Station and the Cognipole ESA experiment examining the over-wintering crews on Antarctic research stations.

The studies in extreme environments are complemented with laboratory experiments, in which in which we investigate attention and behavior control under the effect of stressors like hypoxia, sleep deprivation or cognitive fatigue.

Psychodynamic processes of isolated small groups

The other area of research is directed towards individual and group psychodynamic changes in extreme circumstances, especially under the conditions of confinement and isolation. These investigations are carried out by computerized psychological content analysis of linguistic manifestations (e.g. diaries, messages, chat).  Projects in this direction include the participation in the Mars-500 space simulation experiment in Moscow and the ongoing COALA and CAPA ESA experiments investigating the overwintering crews of two Antarctic research stations.

The purpose of this research, in addition to the study of psychology in isolated and extreme environments, is the development of a completely automated multilingual psychological content analysis system capable of remote monitoring the psychodynamics of inaccessible isolated groups.

Current grants

PECS, NeuroSpat, ESA/4000101994/10/NL/HE

PECS, Cognipole, ESA/4000103377/11/NL/KML

COALA-Content, ESA/PECS, 4000108001/13/NL/KML


Institut “Jozef Stefan”, SI

Institute for Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBMP), RU

Technische Universität Graz, AT

The University of British Columbia, CA

Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE


Bea Ehmann