Life in The Universe Changes The Brain
A new study, conducted by a team of scientists at the University of Antwerp, studied the cosmonauts’ brains before and after their 6-month space missions, after which it was concluded that a longer stay in microgravity changes the very structure of the brain.
Some of the changes are noticeable seven months after cosmonauts return to Earth.
The international team of scientists made MRI scans of 10 male cosmonauts before going into space, and a few weeks after they returned, and 7 of them did a 3-nd scan after several months.
The team noted a reduction in gray matter across the brain, especially in the orbitofrontal cortex that is involved in decision making and the temporal cortex that plays a role in the processing of sensor information and the formation of memories.
Reduction was also observed in the white matter of the brain, a substance that connects the different areas of gray matter to each other.
There were also changes in the cerebrospinal fluid distribution that removed the “waste” products and protects the brain, and the reason for this is that without gravity, a larger amount of this fluid moves to the head and accumulates there.
While the size of the gray matter normalized after 7 months, changes in the cerebrospinal fluid remained, which potentially explains the fact that astronauts often have problems with their sight of the eyes.
The study focused on changes in the brain structure, but not how they can affect its function, which should be further investigated, and to find out how long it takes the brain to return to normal in every aspect.