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Prolonged stay in weightlessness leaves irreversible changes in the brain

Prolonged stay in weightlessness leaves irreversible changes in the brain

Recent health studies of 12 astronauts who worked on the ISS have shown that prolonged exposure to weightlessness irreversibly changes the interaction of nerve cells in the white matter of the brain.

Scientists suggest that these changes are associated with the need for the body to adapt to movement in weightlessness. As a result, the structure of connections between the nerve cells of the brain changes. Previous studies have already shown that prolonged space travel weakens the back muscles and negatively affects the heart. A long flight to Mars can reduce the intellectual abilities of astronauts due to prolonged exposure to cosmic radiation on brain cells, as well as cause mental problems.

To track changes in the astronauts' brains, scientists from the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Research University Higher School of Economics used a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The subjects were tested a few days before the flight to the ISS, then immediately after returning to Earth and 7 months after landing. The data obtained were processed using special algorithms that track connections between different parts of the white matter of the brain. The researchers relied on the nature of the movement of molecules inside cells.

Scientists have found that a long stay in space changed the connection of those regions of the brain that are responsible for movement. Significant changes were found in the striatum, cerebellum, and white matter located between the frontal and temporal cortex.

7 months after planting, the changes were partially preserved. Doctors believe that perhaps some of the changes occurred due to an accidental redistribution of fluid in the skull as a result of a long stay in weightlessness. Now scientists are planning to develop a strategy for how to restore the normal functioning of the brain if changes in its work turn out to be dangerous for the health of astronauts.


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