Can Space Travel Alter Brain Activity?


Effect of extended space flight on the brains of the astronauts has been revealed by a study at the Oregon Health & Science University, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“These findings have important implications as we continue space exploration. It also forces you to think about some basic fundamental questions of science and how life evolved here on Earth,” says senior author Juan Piantino, MD, at the OHSU School of Medicine.

‘Long-duration space flight is found to alter the brain of the astronauts as it affects the fluid-filled spaces along veins and arteries in the brain.

The team analyzed the brains (perivascular spaces in the brain — where the brain’s cerebrospinal fluid flows) of 15 astronauts using magnetic resonance imaging before and after extended tours of duty on the International Space Station.

The analysis was also done at one, three, and six months after they had returned in comparison with the brains of 16 Earth-bound control subjects.

Space Effect on Brain

The perivascular spaces in the brain amount to the underlying “hardware” of the glymphatic system — natural brain cleansing system. Enlarged perivascular spaces (evident in aging) are indicative of developing dementia.

Hence, the present study is the first to analyze the human brain’s physiology without the Earth’s gravitational pull — that is, in space.

Although there were differences measured in the perivascular spaces of the astronaut’s brains, there were no obvious problems found with balance or visual memories — indicative of nil neurological deficits.

“These findings not only help to understand fundamental changes that happen during space flight, but also for people on Earth who suffer from diseases that affect circulation of cerebrospinal fluid,” says Piantino.

Source: Medindia

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