What happens to the human brain in space: scientists track changes

Natalia SofienkoLife
What happens to the brain in space - research

Astronauts' brains are "rebuilt" to adapt to long space flights. These changes persist for the next seven months after returning to Earth.

This is stated in a new study that analyses the structural changes that occur in the brain after a long space flight. Its results were published in the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

The astronauts' brains were studied by a team from the European Space Agency (ESA) led by Dr Floris Vuits from the University of Antwerp.

In this study, scientists first examined structural changes in the brain after space flight at the level of the white matter tracts of the deep brain.

White matter refers to the parts of the brain that are responsible for communication between grey matter and the body, as well as between different areas of grey matter. It is noted that white matter is the brain's communication channel, and grey matter is the place where information is processed.

To study the structure and function of the brain after spaceflight, the researchers examined 12 male astronauts before and immediately after their spaceflights. They also performed eight follow-up scans seven months after the space flight. All the astronauts participated in long-duration flights with an average duration of 172 days.

The researchers found confirmation of the concept of a "trained brain".

"We found changes in neural connections between several motor areas of the brain," said one of the scientists.

"Motor areas are brain centres where commands for movements are initiated. In zero gravity, astronauts need to radically adapt their movement strategies compared to Earth. Our study shows that their brains are being rebuilt," the scientist added.

Further scans showed that after seven months back on Earth, these changes were still visible.

The study may provide the basis for future research into the full range of brain changes during human space exploration.

Earlier, a group of scientists made an impressive discovery about Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the middle of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It turned out that it may have enough heat, minerals and liquids for the existence of extraterrestrial life.

As OBOZREVATEL previously reported, researchers from University College London believe that a planet that could support life orbits a dying star 117 light years from Earth.

If their theory is confirmed, it will be the first time that a potentially habitable world has been discovered orbiting a star called a "white dwarf".

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