Prolonged space missions are damaging astronauts’ brains, claims study

Extended space adventures are damaging astronauts’ brains, according to experts. Astronauts who spend a lot of time in space should give their brains three years to recuperate from the alterations brought on by their missions.

These are the conclusions of a recent research that examined how the brain responds to gravity outside of Earth. It comes before what is anticipated to be a new age of protracted space travel, including the initial expeditions to Mars.

Long space mission leading to enlarged ventricles

As many as 30 astronauts’ brain scans from both before and after their space missions were examined by researchers. They discovered that trips lasting more than six months resulted in considerably enlarged brain ventricles, which might take up to three years to recover from.

The ventricles are hollow spaces in the brain that are filled with a fluid that purifies, hydrates, and protects the brain. Normally, the fluid is helpfully dispersed throughout the body, but because there is no gravity in space, it is sometimes forced upward, which causes the brain to be pushed higher in the skull.

“We found that the more time people spent in space, the larger their ventricles became,” said Rachael Seidler, a professor of applied physiology and kinesiology at the University of Florida and an author of the study told the Independent.

“Many astronauts travel to space more than one time, and our study shows it takes about three years between flights for the ventricles to fully recover,” she said.

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Eight of the 30 astronauts in the research had spent two weeks in space, 18 had completed six-month missions, and four had spent a full year in orbit. The brain had not altered much after two weeks, and after six months the modifications seemed to have ceased.

That is advantageous for individuals taking part in quick excursions of the sort being promoted by tourist initiatives like those from SpaceX.

Additionally, it may be useful for astronauts embarking on lengthy missions, like those to Mars. The absence of alterations between six and twelve months may also be good news for those long excursions, but researchers have not yet looked at persons who have gone for more than a year.

“We were happy to see that the changes don’t increase exponentially, considering we will eventually have people in space for longer periods,” said Professor Seidler. 

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