The brains of astronauts is also “swim” in zero gravity

Brain scans of astronauts before and after space flight have shown changes in the white matter in areas that control movement and process sensory information. The deterioration is similar to what happens with aging, however, proceeds much faster. Obtained in the course of the research may help explain why some astronauts experience problems with balance and coordination upon return to Earth, says study co-author Rachael Seidler, a Professor of the College of health and human services of the University of Florida.

However, changes in one region — the cerebellum — was more pronounced for those whose mission was shorter, suggesting that our brain is able to adapt after a reasonable time.

The symptoms of space sickness

The study examined the 15 scans of NASA astronauts. The scan also showed that spinal fluid gathered at the base of the brain after space flight. The brain of astronauts, in fact, floated a little higher than normal in the skull, after exiting microgravity.

“We know that the fluid shifts toward the head in space,” says Seidler. “When you look at photos and videos of the astronauts, their faces often look puffy, because the gravity pulls the fluid down in the body”.

According to her, the same phenomenon may be in contact with cerebrospinal fluid in the skull that may contribute to the emergence of narcocorrido syndrome, when the optic nerve is bent, vision changes, and the back part of the eye is flattened.

“Liquid is drawn slower, it is possible to pressure on the optic nerve or the brain as if it draws the optic nerve, because it POPs up in the skull above,” says Seidler.

Problems with the white balance of substances normally eliminated in a few weeks after returning to Earth, but the resultant changes in the brain may persist longer. In future studies Seidler and her colleagues plan to evaluate the results of the scan six months after space flight to see how long it will survive these changes, and to understand what triggers them.

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