Space exploration could be an expensive affair but it is very important especially when it comes to new technologies and research. We depend on space travels to be able to accurately predict the weather, for the development of solar cells, GPS systems or even the ultraviolet filters in cameras and sunglasses. However, a recent research shows that spending more time in space could have lasting effects on one’s brain.
A research that was conducted by a team of neurologists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich shows that spending long periods of time in space will lead to muscle atrophy and reduction in bone density and also cause lasting damage on your brain. The study showed that varying changes in the three main tissue volumes of the brain for space travelers remain visible for at least six months after the travel.
According to the researchers, it seems that changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid which happens when you travel to space go on over a period of about seven months after your return to Earth. Professor Peter Zu Eulenburg from the LMU believes that these prolonged changes could alter your bran for a longer period of time if not permanently.
The research was inconclusive though and the extensive alterations observed may or may not lead to any changes in the cognition.
The study has been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was carried out on ten cosmonauts, each of whom was subjected to an average of 189 days on board at the International Space Station (ISS). After returning to Earth, the cosmonauts underwent magnetic resonance tomography scans to show just how much their brains had been damaged. After seven months on Earth, the effect was partly reserved but it was still detectable.
From this research, the team has concluded that after a long stay in space, the volume of the white matter in the brain is slowly filled by cerebrospinal fluid. When one returns to Earth, the process starts to reverse gradually, which may take a longer time.