On more than one occasion we have talked about traveling to space. From new planets, from moon landing , of everything that implies expanding our knowledge of the universe and everything that it may be hiding; even the possibility that there is, in some corner of a lost galaxy, a Earth-like planet that maybe we can inhabit in the future.
This time we want to talk about a common fact that could be applied to all those articles that talk about space. In particular we want you to know, in case you had it in mind, that traveling in space could change the configuration of your brain , Surprised?
How can traveling to space affect us?
The University of Antwerp has carried out new research on the astronaut's brains before and after one of his space missions, after traveling to space and having remained in it for a long period, such as 6 months. They could discover that remain in space for long periods, in a microgravity, altered the structure of their brains . Some of those changes were evident even after seven months of returning to Earth.
The team that conducted the research performed magnetic resonances to 10 male astronauts before traveling into space. Later, upon their return to Earth, they underwent a second exploration. In seven of the ten cases, a third exploration was performed a few months later. The team informed the New England Journal of Medicine that they had seen a reduction in the volume of gray matter throughout the brain of the astronauts, with particular effects on the orbitofrontal cortex , responsible for decision making, in the temporal cortex, responsible for the processing of sensory inputs and memory formation.
Those reductions found also affected the white matter of the brain, which is the substance that connects different areas of gray matter to each other. Traveling to space also caused changes in the distribution of cerebrospinal fluid, which is responsible for eliminating waste products and also protects the brain. Having no gravity, the liquid moves to the head and accumulates there
"Changes occur in the gray and white matter and in the cerebrospinal fluid. And some of those changes are still detectable even seven months after the mission is over, "said the lead author, Dr. Angelique Van Ombergen, in a statement.
Although levels of gray matter leveled out 7 months after returning from the mission, changes in cerebrospinal fluid persisted. This would explain that astronauts often experience vision problems.
Although the study focused on how space changes your brain, it was not taken into account how those changes affect normal functions. However, it is being valued to continue the investigation in that sense and more detail and even to be able to determine how long, after its return from space, can it take the human brain to return to its normal state.
"Definitely, this is something we want to analyze and something that we believe is also necessary if we want to understand the exact dynamics over time. In addition, broader prospective studies are also needed to fully discover the possible clinical consequences for astronauts. Combining, for example, brain scans with clinical tests or behavioral data is necessary if we want to fully understand what is happening, "said Dr. Van Ombergen.
All These investigations are very important when traveling to space and planning long-term space flights to know what consequences could be permanent for astronauts . We must consider how to avoid them in the future, because if we are aiming to travel to Mars, we must take them into account.
"A countermeasure that could help is artificial gravity. This is true for several of the effects related to space flight. For example, bone and muscle loss and changes in the vestibular system that cause dizziness and nausea . It could also be a potential risk mitigator for the brain changes we see, "explained Dr. Van Ombergen.
"However, it will be necessary to see if artificial gravity, for example through the use of a rotating spacecraft, is possible, since this has some consequences for the technological side and the cost of the development of spacecraft."
We have heard on more than one occasion that the future of humanity lies in traveling to space and exploring it, in finding other potentially habitable planets. However, we are still far from being able to carry out these expeditions, as long as we do not fully control these effects caused by the lack of gravity in the organism of the astronauts.
Luckily, there are many researchers committed to this cause and many companies that bet on this type of research, as is the case of the entrepreneur Elon Musk , who founded SpaceX with the aim of taking the human being to Mars.
What do you think about our article on how to travel to space changes your brain? What do you think about the investigations that are being carried out in this field? We want to read your comments!