Unraveling the Effects of Long-Duration Spaceflights on Brain Health: Insights from Ventricular Swelling

By: | June 16th, 2023

Image courtesy Wikimedia commons

Humanity is entering a new era of space exploration. Long spaceflights are becoming more common. However, such long-duration spaceflights bring about significant concerns regarding the well-being of future explorers. These concerns encompass various health risks, such as the potential decrease in bone density and the likelihood of alterations in brain function.

To better comprehend how the brain reacts to extended space travel, researchers from the University of Florida conducted a study. Their goal was to demystify the intricate workings of the brain during prolonged periods in space.

Ventricular Swelling: A Consequence of Longer Spaceflights

In this study, brain scans were obtained from a total of 30 astronauts who had experienced space travel. These individuals were categorized based on the duration of their missions: eight for two-week missions, 18 for six-month missions, and four for year-long missions.

Upon comparing the pre-and post-spaceflight brain images, the researchers observed changes specifically in the ventricles. Ventricles are interconnected cavities within the brain that contain cerebrospinal fluid, serving to protect and cushion the brain. Moreover, ventricles play a vital role in providing nourishment to the brain and facilitating the removal of waste materials.

The researchers found that longer spaceflights resulted in greater swelling of the ventricles. The majority of this swelling occurred within the first six months of being in space.

“The biggest jump comes when you go from two weeks to six months in space,” study senior author Rachael Seidler, said in a statement. “There is no measurable change in the ventricles’ volume after only two weeks.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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