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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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Tea Drinkers Have Healthier Brain Functioning, Research Suggests

Tea drinkers have better organised brain regions and this is associated with healthy cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers, research suggests

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Green Tea, Brain, Research, Tea
Matcha is the finely ground powder of new leaves from shade-grown (90 per cent shade) Camellia sinensis green tea bushes. Wikimedia Commons

Research suggests that regular tea drinkers have better organised brain regions and this is associated with healthy cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers.

“Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure, and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organisation,” according to a study authored by Feng Lei, Assistant Professor from the National University of Singapore.

Previous researchers have demonstrated that tea intake is beneficial to human health and the positive effects include mood improvement and cardiovascular disease prevention.

Green Tea, Brain, Research, Tea
Tea drinkers have better organised brain regions and this is associated with healthy cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers. Wikimedia Commons

For the study published in the journal Aging, the research team recruited 36 adults aged 60 and above and gathered data about their health, lifestyle and psychological well-being.

The elderly participants also had to undergo neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The study was carried out from 2015 to 2018.

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Upon analysing the participants’ cognitive performance and imaging results, the research team found that individuals who consumed either green tea, oolong tea, or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were interconnected in a more efficient way.

“We have shown in our previous studies that tea drinkers had better cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers,” Lei said.

“Our current results relating to brain network indirectly support our previous findings by showing that the positive effects of regular tea drinking are the result of improved brain organisation brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections,” he added. (IANS)