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Astronauts Suffer From Swollen Chambers in the Brain, and Recovery Can Take Years

By: Jonathan Shen

Space is a very hostile environment: no air, food, light, or life. However, the biggest problem with visiting space is the deadly Microgravity that causes astronauts to experience bone loss, muscle atrophy, liver and kidney problems.

Aboard the 19 year old International Space Station, astronauts work in various shifts through the long narrow path conducting numerous scientific experiments and calculations. However, living on the ISS for many months can cause serious problems to our health including the impacts of Microgravity which causes swollen chambers in astronaut’s brain.

According to a piece that was published in Scientific Reports on June 8th, “When humans are exposed to low gravity areas such as space, our bodies adapt to it by making fluid-filled chambers in the human brain expand! However, after a space-mission, those changes don’t shrink back very quickly. The swollen chambers might even take as long as 3 years to return to usual. Researchers reported this June 8 in Scientific Reports.” In Space, our ventricles in our brain tend to be filled up with liquid that softens the brain and empty out cellular waste. Rachel Seidler who studies how the human body adapts in space at the University of Florida at Gainesville has said that “In space, the ventricles expand as they take in more fluid.”

Even the Smithsonian Magazine has said that, “At the center of the brain are four, fluid-filled cavities called ventricles, which help keep the organ cushioned and floating in the liquid that surrounds it. During spaceflight, these ventricles expand by between 11 and 25 percent, as previous studies have shown.”

Seidler and her fellow colleagues did an experiment by examining MRI scans from the brains of 30 astronauts. Turns out, the longer the mission in space, the ventricles in our brain seem to expand more. In the experiment, Seildler noted that the longer missions such as the 6 and 12 month missions resulted in larger ventricles compared to the 2 week spaceflights.

Because of this issue, astronauts now are recommended to wait 3 years before going back to the dark and empty space.

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