Spaceflight Changes the Shape of Astronauts’ Brains

It appears that spaceflight really goes to astronauts’ heads.

Doctors and scientists have long known that exposure to a weightless environment causes muscles to atrophy, bones to weaken and vision to deteriorate, among other effects. Now, a new study has determined that spaceflight also causes some parts of the brain to expand and others to contract.

“We found large regions of gray-matter volume decreases, which could be related to redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid in space,” study principal investigator Rachael Seidler, a professor of kinesiology and psychology at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.

“Gravity is not available to pull fluids down in the body, resulting in so-called puffy face in space,” Seidler added. “This may result in a shift of brain position or compression.”

Seidler and her team studied magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 26 astronauts — 12 who flew on two-week-long space shuttle missions, and 14 others who lived aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for five to six months.

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SOURCE: Space.com, Mike Wall