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Travelling To Space May Alter Brain, Says Study

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume

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Keplar, NASA
According to co-author Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today. VOA

Spending long periods in space not only leads to muscle atrophy and reductions in bone density, it also has lasting effects on the brain, suggests a study.

The study, led by a team of neuroscientists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich, showed that differential changes in the three main tissue volumes of the brain remain detectable for at least half a year after the end of their last mission.

“Our results point to prolonged changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid circulation over a period of at least seven months following the return to Earth,” said professor Peter zu Eulenburg from the LMU.

“However, whether or not the extensive alterations shown in the grey and the white matter lead to any changes in cognition remains unclear at present,” he added.

The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out on ten cosmonauts, each of whom had spent an average of 189 days on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) scans performed in the days after the return to Earth revealed that the volume of the grey matter was reduced compared to before launch.

ISS Launched First satellite For Cleaning Space Junk
Space travel can alter brain: Study, Pixabay

Seven months later, this effect was partly reversed, but nevertheless still detectable.

In contrast, the volume of the cerebrospinal fluid, which fills the inner and outer cavities of the brain, increased within the cortex during long-term exposure to microgravity.

Further, the white matter tissue volume (those parts of the brain that are primarily made up of nerve fibres) appeared to be unchanged upon investigation immediately after landing.

But, the subsequent examination six months later showed a widespread reduction in volume relative to both earlier measurements.

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In this case, the team postulated that over the course of a longer stint in space, the volume of the white matter may slowly be replaced by an influx of cerebrospinal fluid.

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume.

According to the researchers, further studies using a wider range of diagnostic methods are deemed essential, to minimise the risks associated with long-term missions and to characterise any clinical significance of the findings. (IANS)

Next Story

Study Reveals Solar Cells Can Retain Most Of Their Power Conversion Efficiency in Near Space

In the study, researchers from China's Peking University sent the devices fixed with PSCs into near space on a high-altitude balloon.

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solar energy
Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are known for their potential of achieving higher efficiency and low production costs compared to traditional silicon solar cells. Pixabay

Chinese researchers have found that solar cells can retain most of their power conversion efficiency in near space, providing perspectives on the cells’ future application in space.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are known for their potential of achieving higher efficiency and low production costs compared to traditional silicon solar cells.

These cells also have great potential for developing the new-generation energy technology for space application, but little research has been done to test the stability of PSCs in the extreme space environment, Xinhua news agency reported.

In the study, researchers from China’s Peking University sent the devices fixed with PSCs into near space on a high-altitude balloon.

energy
These cells also have great potential for developing the new-generation energy technology for space application, but little research has been done to test the stability of PSCs in the extreme space environment, Xinhua news agency reported. Piixabay

The balloon rose to near space at an altitude of 35 km, a region above Earth’s atmosphere where there is only a trace amount of moisture and ozone.

The region, considered to have “air mass zero” contains no atmospheric attenuation of solar radiation and therefore several high-energy particles and radiation, such as neutrons, electrons and gamma rays, originate from the galactic cosmic rays and solar flares.

solar cells
Chinese researchers have found that solar cells can retain most of their power conversion efficiency in near space, providing perspectives on the cells’ future application in space.
Pixabay

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According to the findings, one type of PSCs used in the study retained more than 95 per cent of its initial power conversion efficiency during the test, the researchers reported in the journal Science China Physics, Mechanics and Astronomy.

They said the study is expected to play a crucial role in the future stability research of PSCs. (IANS)