Enlarge / The top row shows brain changes with long duration bed rest, the bottom row shows changes with spaceflight. Orange shows regions of increase, blue a decrease.
When it comes to human health and spaceflight, there are a lot of concerns as NASA casts its eye toward deep space.
Among the more familiar problems are muscle and bone mass loss due to the lack of gravity.
But more recently, scientists have grown increasingly concerned about astronauts returning to Earth with blurred vision, flattened eyeballs, and inflamed optic nerves after long-duration missions.
The eyesight problems appear to be caused by changes in cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that helps cushion the brain from pressure changes during bodily movements. Now scientists are probing what other kinds of health issues might be caused by a redistribution of this spinal fluid, and this has led to studying the changes in brain size during spaceflight.
A new study in Nature Microgravity provides some of the first data on the changes in brain structure during spaceflight. Led by University of Michigan researcher Rachael Seidler, the study reviewed MRI scans from 27 astronauts, 13 of whom flew space shuttle missions and 14 who had flown approximately six month increments on board the International Space Station.
The data was obtained from the NASA Lifetime Surveillance of Astronaut Health.
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