DAMAGED PARTS IN ASTRONAUTS’ BRAINS MIGHT TAKE THREE YEARS TO RECOVER
By: Jessica Jin
Researchers reported a new finding in Scientific Reports on June 8th: in astronauts’ brains, chambers full of fluids would expand in space because that's one of the ways human bodies change in response to lower gravity. This affects the astronauts’ ability to think clearly.
The cavities full of liquid are called ventricles. The ventricles are used for producing and storing liquids in the brain. That fluid cushions the human brain and spinal cord from injuries. When going to space, the longer astronauts stay in lower gravity, the more the ventricles will expand and the more fluids they will make. Too much of this fluid will cause a problem much like hydrocephalus. Fortunately, no astronaut has seemed to get this disorder, but some studies show that longer space travels have taken a toll on the astronauts’ brains.
Rachael Seidler, a researcher at the University of Florida who studies how space affects humans, and her colleagues conducted a test on how much the brain will change from being in space. They examined scans of brains, before and after the astronaut went to space. They found that the longer astronauts’ missions were, the more ventricles enlarged. Six months seems to be the point when the ventricles grow; anything lower than six months seems to have a very small amount of growth in the ventricles.
The data we now have suggests that astronauts should try to take three-year breaks from space travel. Tests have shown that when astronauts have less than three-year breaks from going to space, their ventricles don’t grow much from the previous time they went to space. The ventricles seem to stay at a more enlarged size. But when astronauts had more than three-year breaks, the ventricles seemed to return to normal size and when going to space, the ventricles grew more. This suggests that it takes around three years for ventricles to return to normal size.
Space travel gets more complicated over time. Now, scientists need to figure out ways to keep astronauts' brains safe. There might not even be a cure. Future astronauts might have to limit their time in lower gravity.
Swollen chambers in astronauts’ brains may take 3 years to recover (snexplores.org)
NASA Looks Into Effects Of Space Travel On Brain | Digital Trends
Brain Ventricles: Anatomy, Function, and Conditions (verywellhealth.com)
Hydrocephalus | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (nih.gov)