Lab History

Black and white photo of people looking at scientific equipment

Visitors examine the equipment at the Graybiel Laboratory dedication.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University

The Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory opened at Brandeis University on Oct. 20, 1982, with a two-day symposium on Achieving Manned Orbital Flight, Physiological Changes in Manned Space Flight, the Space Shuttle, and Man's Future in Space. Among the many speakers present were Charles Stark Draper, William E. Thornton, Lawrence Dietlein, Gordon Fullerton, and the Graybiel Lab's director, James Lackner.

The generous material, financial and unswerving moral support by Dr. Lawrence F. Dietlein, deputy director of life sciences at NASA's Johnson Space Center, made the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory at Brandeis possible.

The first experimental devices in the Graybiel Lab in 1982 included a short-arm centrifuge, a z-axis recumbent rotation device, a rotary treadmill enclosed in an optokinetic drum, and a Skylab rotating litter chair.

Since the lab's inaugural opening, more than 20 major pieces of equipment have been designed and constructed or acquired for experiments.

The largest of the experimental apparatuses in the lab is the 22-foot diameter rotating room, the only facility in the United States that can be used to simulate artificial gravity environments. The rotating room is used extensively and is at the center of many experiments studying the effects artificial force environments have on the neurocontrol of movement, posture, and orientation of the human body.

Today, the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory comprises more than 20 Brandeis University faculty members, researchers, staff and students drawn from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and academic and professional experiences.