- Sara L. Thompson
As the longtime director of psychophysiological research at NASA, Ames Research Center (ARC), in Mountain View, California, Patricia Cowings’s career as a research psychologist at NASA has spanned well over three decades. Beginning with a focus on training astronauts to use biofeedback to overcome the motion sickness that plagues them during their flights, she developed the Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE). Using this system, an astronaut learns to control functions previously considered to be involuntary, such as heart rate, the temperature of the extremities, and the muscles of the digestive system. Such a technique is invaluable to astronauts and pilots who are placed in extreme conditions and emergency flight situations and need to control their own “fight or flight” responses to think clearly and act effectively.
Cowings was born in New York City and spent her childhood in the Fort Apache area of the Bronx where her parents Albert ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.