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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)

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NASA Preparing to Launch Twin Sisters to Study Signal Disruption from Space

The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors

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NASA, mars
NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo's twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024. VOA

NASA is preparing to launch twin satellites this month that focus on how radio signals that pass through the Earth’s upper atmosphere can be distorted by structured bubbles in this region called the ionosphere.

The twin E-TBEx CubeSats — short for Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment – will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the US space agency said on Monday.

Especially problematic over the equator, the radio signal distortions can interfere with military and airline communications as well as GPS signals.

Right now, scientists cannot predict when these bubbles will form or how they will change over time.

“These bubbles are difficult to study from the ground,” said Rick Doe, payload programme manager for the E-TBEx mission at SRI International, a non-profit research institute in Menlo Park, California.

space
NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts. Pixabay

“If you see the bubbles start to form, they then move. We’re studying the evolution of these features before they begin to distort the radio waves going through the ionosphere to better understand the underlying physics,” Doe said.

The ionosphere is that part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere where particles are ionized — meaning they are separated out into a sea of positive and negative particles called plasma.

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The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors.

What scientists learn from E-TBEx could help develop strategies to avoid signal distortion — for instance, allowing airlines to choose a frequency less susceptible to disruption, or letting the military delay a key operation until a potentially disruptive ionospheric bubble has passed, NASA said. (IANS)