Astronauts’ brains are ‘enjoyed’ to adapt to long space missions

Our brains can change and adapt in structure and function throughout our lives. As human space exploration reaches new horizons, it is critically important to understand the impact of spaceflight on the human brain. Previous research has shown that spacecraft is capable of altering both the shape and function of the adult brain.

Through a collaborative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, an international team of researchers, led by Dr Floris Wuyts of the University of Antwerp, has studied the brains of human astronauts. into space.

For the first time, Wuyts and his colleagues have studied structural changes in the brain after spaceflight at the level of white matter regions in the deep brain.

White matter refers to the parts of the brain responsible for communication between gray matter with the body and between different gray matter regions. In short, white matter is the communication channel of the brain and gray matter is the place to process information.

The brain learns

To study the structure and function of the brain after spaceflight, the researchers used a brain-imaging technique known as fiberoptic tracing.

“Fiber-optical imaging offers a kind of diagram of the brain’s electrical wiring,” explains Wuyts. “Our study is the first to use this specific method to detect changes in brain structure,” explains Wuyts. after space flight”.

Wuyts and his team obtained diffuse MRI (dMRI) images of 12 male astronauts before and shortly after they entered space. They also collected eight follow-up scans, seven months after the spaceflight. All of the astronauts participated in long-duration missions with an average length of 172 days.

Researchers have found evidence for the concept of a ‘learned brain’; in other words, the level of neuroplasticity the brain has to adapt to space flight. First author, Dr Andrei Doroshin, of Drexel University, said: “We found changes in neural connections between several motor regions of the brain. “The motor areas are the brain centers where the commands for movements begin. In a state of weightlessness, an astronaut needs to adjust his movement strategies drastically, compared with Earth. Our research shows that their brains are rewired, so to speak.”

Further scans showed that after seven months of returning to Earth, these changes were still visible.

Wuyts continued: “We know from previous studies that these locomotor regions show signs of adaptation after spaceflight. Now we have the first indication that it is also reflected. reflected in the degree of connectivity between those regions”.

The authors also found an explanation for the changes in brain anatomy observed after spaceflight. “We initially thought we were detecting changes in the corpus callosum, which is the central highway that connects both hemispheres of the brain,” explains Wuyts. The corpuscle abuts the cerebral ventricles, a communication network of fluid-filled cavities, which expand due to spatial light.

“The structural changes that we found initially in the globular body are actually due to ventricular dilation causing anatomical changes in adjacent nerve tissue,” Wuyts said. . “Where it was initially assumed that there were real structural changes in the brain, we only observed conformational changes. This puts the findings in a different light.”

The future of spaceship research

Research shows the need to understand how cosmic light affects our bodies, specifically through long-term research into the effects on the human brain. Current countermeasures exist for muscle and bone loss, such as exercising for at least two hours a day. Future research may provide evidence that countermeasures are necessary for the brain.

“These findings provide us with additional pieces of the whole puzzle. Because this research is so pioneering, we still don’t know what the whole puzzle will look like. It’s important to remain open. This line of research, looks at brain changes caused by spaceflight from different perspectives and using different techniques,” Wuyts concludes.

Source: Eurekalert

Source link


News7h: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button