Scientists have revealed that long space missions may cause the brain of astronauts to change in form. NASA’s twin study has unveiled more data. The study which was published last week presented the differences between tests which were run on twins. Mark and Scott Kelly were examined after Scott spent almost a year aboard the International Space Station in microgravity.
Researchers analyzed the physical impact of space on astronauts, by even examining gene expression. Recently, a group of specialists at the University of Michigan have published their research suggesting that spaceflight has an impact on astronauts’ brains. This team of scientists has surveyed and tested about 26 astronauts who engaged in space missions, spending different amounts of time in microgravity between 2008 and 2012.
Twelve astronauts were aboard of a shuttle for two weeks whereas 14 others spent six months aboard the International Space Station. Astronauts underwent MRIs both before and after their space missions. After researchers have compared their structural scans, they established that all participants in the study proved to have experienced doth decreases and increase of the volume of gray matter in distinct regions of the brain.
Gray matter is crucial for the fulfillment of several significant functions like sensory perception, memory, emotions and muscle control. Those astronauts who spent more time in space had their brain even more affected by these changes. The new study was published on December 19, 2016, in the Nature Microgravity magazine.
Rachel Seidler, the co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Michigan, claimed that some areas of the brain revealed a decrease in the volume of gray matter. Nevertheless, she explained that going to space results in losing brain cells. These losses occur due to shifts in the fluid inside the brain during the flight.
These gray matter volume shifts usually occur due to microgravity, representing the slight presence of gravity aboard the International Space Station. Seidler noted that gravity affects your body in pulling all the fluids inside you towards your feet. Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not take place in space. More fluid is flowing toward the head.
Scientists revealed that microgravity triggers the gray matter volume to increase in some regions of the brain which control the movement of the legs, reflecting the brain’s tendency to retain astronauts’ bodies from moving.
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