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Space Travel Can Alter Brain: Study

Spending long periods in space not only leads to muscle atrophy and reductions in bone density, it also has lasting…

Spending long periods in space not only leads to muscle atrophy and reductions in bone density, it also has lasting effects on the brain, suggests a study.

The study, led by a team of neuroscientists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich, showed that differential changes in the three main tissue volumes of the brain remain detectable for at least half a year after the end of their last mission.

“Our results point to prolonged changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid circulation over a period of at least seven months following the return to Earth, “said professor Peter zu Eulenburg from the LMU.

” However, whether the extensive changes shown in the gray and the white matter lead to any changes in cognition remains unclear at present, “he added.

The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out on cosmonauts, each of which had spent an average of 1

89 days on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) scans performed in the days after the return to Earth revealed that the volume of the gray matter was reduced compared to before launch.

Seven months later, this effect was partially reversed, but nevertheless still detectable.

In contrast, the volume of cerebrospinal fluid, which fills the inner and outer cavities of the brain, increased within the cortex during long-term exposure to microgravity

Further, the white matter tissue volume appeared to be unchanged upon investigation immediately after landing.

However, the subsequent examination six months later showed a widespread Reduction in volume relative to both earlier measurements.

In this case, the team postulated that over the course of a longer period in space, the volume of the white matter may slowly be replaced

According to the researchers, further studies using a wider range of diagnostic Methods are deemed essential, to minimize the risks associated with long-term missions and to characterize any clinical significance of the findings.

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