Grand Alliance scans have revealed the first clear evidence of how the organ copes with the challenge of wandering in space with strange and often illness-induced challenges.
Analysis of scans taken from 11 astronauts, who spent about six months in each orbit, found an increase in white and gray matter in three regions of the brain that are intensively involved in physical movement.
The changes reflect the “neuroplasticity” of the brain through which neural tissue, in this case the cells that conduct movement or motor activity, reconstruct itself to meet the fresh demands of life in orbit.
“Through the techniques we have used, we can clearly see that microstructural changes are involved in motor processing in three major areas of the brain,” said Steven Jillings, a neurologist at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
Visitors to the International Space Station have suffered a dramatic blow to the system due to the whole host, but one of the most surprising is the weightlessness. Although the space station and its occupants are firmly in the grip of gravity – they are constantly orbiting the planet – the body must regain its senses to fight the extreme environment.
Images of the Grand Alliance brain, taken on average 171 days before and after the permanent mission and again seven months later, confirmed that the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain redistributes itself in orbit and pushes the brain toward the top of the brain. It also dilates fluid-filled cavities called ventricles, which may be associated with a decrease in the sharpness of vision of the universe, a condition known as spaceflight-related neuro-ocular syndrome or breath.
However, the scans also took into account microstructural changes in three brain regions, namely the primary motor cortex, which transmits signals of movement to the muscles; Cerebellum, which plays a role in subtle movement; And the basal ganglia, a region that helps initiate movement. Even seven months after the astronaut returned to Earth, some changes were evident.
“What we see makes so much sense. Floris Waits, senior author of the study, published in Advances in Science, said the complex situation is a sign that ocean currents find themselves and how they are learning to adapt to this extreme environment. “The thing that is very different in space is the lack of gravity. If there is no shortage of gravity, then you have to learn anew how to move properly. “
First-time pilots on the International Space Station don’t just have to learn how to navigate around orbiting outposts – an education that tends to be prone to injuries – they must restore their sensory systems. On Earth, the brain learns to understand our place in the world through the combination of information with what we see and feel with our other senses with our vesicular system. On the space station a visitor has to forget the ideas above and below and learn how to move objects. Many people experience dizziness and illness before the brain adapts.
The results will be fed into a project run by the Russian Space Agency, Roscomos and the European Space Agency to understand the effects of spaceflight on the human brain and how it can mitigate unpleasant effects. “It can be a game-changer for countermeasures that are really used,” says Woots. “This will affect the future missions of the space crew, but also for tourists who want to spend some time in space.”