Rachael Seidler, Ph.D.

Professor of Applied Physiology & Kinesiology

College of Health & Human Performance

2023 Awardee

Rachael Seidler’s work on aging and spaceflight has garnered international recognition, with implications for human health on Earth and in outer space.

One of Seidler’s significant achievements is her NASA-funded spaceflight study, spanning from 2010 to the present. Using advanced MRI techniques, she investigates changes in brain structure and function, as well as their implications for balance, mobility and cognition in astronauts before, during and after missions to the International Space Station. Her team’s groundbreaking research has identified two types of brain changes resulting from microgravity. The first involves neuroplasticity, reflecting how the central nervous system adapts to the altered sensory experiences in space. Seidler’s work has shed light on adaptive responses and brain-behavioral changes, with individual differences in these changes predicting human performance. These findings have important implications for astronaut training and interventions to ensure safe missions to the moon and Mars.

The second type of brain change involves effects of the microgravity environment. In the absence of gravity, bodily fluids shift towards the head, leading to enlarged fluid-filled spaces within the brain and structural changes in perivascular spaces. While the consequences for long-term brain health are still being studied, Seidler’s lab has recently been awarded a 10-year grant from NASA to investigate brain recovery up to five years postflight.

Seidler’s work extends to age-related mobility issues. With a $5.6 million NIH grant, her research explores how the brain compensates for declines, with potential to prevent falls in older adults.

Seidler’s commitment to mentorship is evident through the research careers of numerous Ph.D. students she has mentored. She inspires the next generation through her leadership of Girls with Nerve, a summer program bringing together female graduate students and junior high and high school females, providing them with STEM experience focused on the nervous system and sensorimotor behavior. The program includes underserved minority students, fostering inspiration and cultivating interest in STEM sciences among young women.

Seidler has authored 175 papers in prestigious journals such as Science, JAMA Neurology and Lancet Neurology, among others. Her research has been cited more than 16,000 times. As the principal investigator of grants from renowned institutions like NASA, NIH, NSF and the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, Seidler has secured more than $14 million in research funding as PI or MPI throughout her academic career.