Medicine

Space Travel Can Seriously Affect the Brain of Astronauts

Space Travel Can Seriously Affect the Brain of Astronauts

Their brains shifted upwards and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) spaces at the top of the brain were found to be narrowed.

While astronauts make up only a tiny percent of VIIP patients in the world, knowing about the impact of space travel on the brain does have some practical function.

Of the 34 total astronauts involved in the study, 18 took long trips to space-spending most of that time on the International Space Station-and of those, 17 returned to Earth with smaller regions between the frontal and parietal lobe.

About 40 percent of astronauts who have been on missions in space return with several types of neurological disorders. But, while this study is a significant and major step towards better understanding these effects, "Exposure to the space environment has permanent effects on humans that we simply do not understand".

A cine clip was available for one of these three astronauts, showing an upward shift of the brain.

The shifting and crowding of various brain tissues indicates that space travel has serious and permanent implications in the human brain.

The before and after MRI brain scans were then interpreted by readers who were unaware of the length of each mission.

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Several hypotheses for the cause have been raised, including nutrition, increased intercranial pressure from the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) that is used to help astronauts stay in shape, or elevated carbon dioxide levels on the space station. Interestingly enough, these significant changes were only found in the brains of the astronauts who endured longer space travel.

Astronauts returning to Earth after long stays in space already deal with some noticeable side effects that linger after their journey, often related to muscles but sometimes also issues with vision. But there's a problem to surmount first - we've got to get there. IIH affects young, overweight women, and its cause is not well known.

The treatment for IIH is to drain the fluid using a needle placed in the lower back, which is a complex procedure performed by neuroradiologists.

Roberts is trying to get more medical records from astronauts, particularly those that stayed in space for particularly lengthy periods during one mission - like Scott Kelly (nearly a year) or Peggy Whitson (nearly 10 months).

Robert concluded that researching neurophysiological and anatomical changes in the brain is important for NASA's future plans for longer duration space missions. She is also participating as a researcher in a long-term bed rest study in Germany that exposes participants to higher levels of carbon dioxide, to simulate the levels that astronauts experience on the station.

A mission to the Red Planet presents myriad technical challenges, but getting astronauts there with their brains unaffected may be the biggest of them all.


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