We know from the research for several years, that long-term space stays longer than a month in the world to muscle atrophy, reduction in bone density and changes in the immune system of the people. In the first 72 hours after Excreted in weightlessness (more correctly would be micro-gravity) show some of the astronauts, dizziness, Nausea, and headache.

The consequences could have such a residence for the human brain, have emerged in recent years, the focus of science. North American colleagues were able to show in a descriptive analysis to merge different sources of data, in the anatomical representation of the human brain using magnetic resonance imaging of astronauts after returning to earth, the Central longitudinal furrow of the brain narrows visible, and to shrink at the base of the skull regions of the gray matter appear to be. About the author

Peter zu eulenburg is a Professor of Neuroimaging at the German dizziness and balance center at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich.

Volume reductions in the gray matter

We were now able to show in the first part of the evaluation of the long-term project for structural changes to the brain in a surprisingly clear way that it comes a few days after returning from the weightlessness in comparison to a baseline measurement before the Start of a really extensive Volume reductions in the gray matter (cerebral cortex nerve cells) in the human. For this purpose, we studied, from 2014 to 2018, ten Russian cosmonauts who had spent, on average, 189 days aboard the international space station, ISS, by magnetic resonance imaging. On average, the return was 1.39%. Another study had indicated such findings in the past.

the Driving force for this seems to be a pressure-related expansion of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) – filled space within the caverns of the cerebrum. The increase was 12.9 percent. The main from nerve fibers, the white matter of the brain appeared directly after landing, in comparison to the preliminary investigation, however, unchanged.

In the long-term course after half a year, the Volume reductions of gray matter, then, fortunately, were for the most part, but on the whole, unfortunately, still not completely on the decline. The rooms with the brain-water had expanded but, especially in the brain around more. At the same time was surprisingly the white matter of the cerebrum in many areas in the Long term (seven months after the return) in comparison to the measurement before the Start and also in comparison to the first measurement after the return has shrunk considerably.

profound change in the brain water circulation

We now suspect that during the space stay a little volume of white matter by expanding nervous water is replaced. In half a year after the return to earth of this “free” water is released again, so that it comes to this relative shrinkage of the white matter. Our results suggest, overall, a lasting and profound change in the brain water circulation through the long-term Mission in space for many months after a return to the earth. No one had expected.

Whether or not the observed large-scale changes in the gray and white matter have a relevance for the cognitive, the mental abilities of the cosmonauts, is at present unclear. A clinical note for pressure changes in the head of the people are drivers only partially to long-term Changes in the eyesight in each room. This might as well as the observed phenomena by the pressure of accumulating nervous water on the eyeball and the retina from the back and on the front approach to the optic nerve behind it.

As an overarching cause for all of the observed changes in the fluid may be shifts in the various water columns in the body of the people, to suspect even up in the direction of the head due to the lack of gravity. This fluid shift from the legs and the torso up, with low but persistent pressure changes in the venous system of the head as a result of, could add up over the long course (189 days) in space and lead to the observed effects for the brain.

changes to the

From the results of our study are observed in several potential consequences, in my opinion. From the point of view of the neurologist we are in need of a detailed and standardized cognitive test battery to examine all long-term space drivers in more detail. The MRI scans of the head should no longer be after the return of uniformly (> 2 years). As potential medical consequences of the observed structural changes of the brain would allow better estimate. And only then the process of a complete regression could be observed changes in the gray matter, hopefully, confirm.

During the stay on the ISS or future space stations there are also several relatively simple ways to the brain and/or pressure in the eye to continuously record. This could be used to estimate the temporal dynamics of the circulation changes in the nervous system of the head better. Instead of find this at the beginning, over the entire period or only at the end. We assume here a linear and summing the connection of the observed changes with the duration of the stay in space. All of these additional studies should also allow for meaningful countermeasures (artificial gravity, pants with under-pressure system to the Tying of body fluids in the lower half of the body, drugs) in a targeted and dosed. This would also be in terms of longer space missions (>1 year) in the foreseeable future, such as to Mars, certainly.

The project was funded by the European (ESA) and Russian space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Belgian science Fund.

original work: Brain Tissue Volume Changes in Cosmonauts; Angelique Van Ombergen, Peter zu eulenburg, Floris L. Wuyts, et al.; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1809011; The New England Journal of Medicine, 2018

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