Space travel can change the brain The cost of long periods in space not only results in muscle atrophy and…
Space travel can change the brain
The cost of long periods in space not only results in muscle atrophy and reduced bone density. It also has lasting effects on the brain, suggests a study.
The study was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, conducted on ten cosmonauts, each had spent an average of 189 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Headed by a neuroscience team from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, the study showed that differences in the brain’s 3 mg tissue volume remain detectable for at least 7 months after the end of their last assignment.
“Our results point to long-term changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid circulation for a period of at least seven months after returning to the ground,” said Professor Peter zu Eulenburg from LMU.  “Whether the extensive changes shown in gray and white matter lead to some changes in cognition remain unclear at the moment,” he added.
The magnetic resonance tomographic scans (MRT) were performed the day after returning to the ground revealed that the volume of the gray substance was reduced compared to prior to launch.
Seven months later, this effect was partially reversed, yet still detectable.
In contrast, the volume of cerebrospinal fluid filling the brain’s internal and external cavities increased within the long-term corticron exposure to microgravity.
The white tissue volume (those parts of the brain consisting essentially of nerve fibers) appeared to be unchanged upon examination immediately after landing.
However, the subsequent investigation six months later showed a significant reduction in volume relative to both previous measurements.
In this case, the team explained that for a long time in space, the volume of the white substance can slowly be replaced by an influx of cerebrospinal fluid.  On the return to earth, this process is then gradually transformed, resulting in a relative decrease of the white amount of volume.
IANS / Travel News
According to the study of ear studies, additional studies with a wide range of diagnostic methods are considered necessary to minimize the risks associated with long-term assignments and to characterize any clinical significance of the results.