Do Long Space Flights Affect the Astronauts’ Brains: Researchers Have the Answer

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Recent research discovered that long space flights don’t affect the astronauts’ brains as much as previously thought.

A team of researchers investigated the brains of astronauts returning from long space flights aboard the ISS. The results are astonishing. 

Previous research has indicated that long-term space missions can lead to muscle and bone degeneration because of the impact of extensive freefall of the body. Now, as new research emerges, we learn that things are quite different. Here is what you need to know. 

MRI Scans, New Results, and Other Significant Details

The team utilized a special type of MRI scan on 11 Russian male astronauts. The subjects had together averaged six months in space aboard the ISS – before and after returning and again seven months later.

The astronauts’ brains were scanned with diffusion MRI, a technique that comprises taking various scans at once. The researchers realized 153 scans during only one session. Every scan has somewhat different parameters, which lets for developing images in many ways. For instance, one of the scans had a parameter dubbed the “b value,” where a specific signal is lowered during scanning to record the brain matter’s decay. 

The team’s results were incredible. They discovered that the brain starts to reorient itself during long space missions, which is quite extraordinary. The brain does something like “floating” into various parts of the skull. But that’s not all. 

The astronauts’ brains also responded in other ways to the odd living environment – they had better balance and coordination and gained new motor skills. And the researchers discovered that the reorientation didn’t result in neurodegeneration, and that usual orientation was almost restored seven months after the astronauts returned home. They confirmed as well that the fluid build-up behind their eyes as the cause for the deterioration of visual acuity during long space flights. 


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