Astronauts’ brains change because of long-distance space travel

Astronauts' brains change because of long-distance space travel
Science experiments aboard the International Space Station

NOS News

  • Joshua imprint

    Science Editor

  • Joshua imprint

    Science Editor

Muscle weakness, osteoporosis and poor eyesight: Floating in space for a long time is not good for the body. We already knew that, now American research also shows that astronauts’ brains change as a result of a long space flight.

Data from thirty American astronauts shows that brain chambers became larger in space. These are empty spaces in the center of the brain that are filled with fluid. Rooms get bigger and bigger in the first six months of space travel. It remains stable after six months.

It’s still not clear why, says gravity researcher Jacques van Loon of the European Space Center ESTEC in Noordwijk.

He says on the NPO Radio 1 programme News & Co

Wait three years

It is not yet clear what the consequences of large brain chambers will be. “Sometimes astronauts have cognitive impairment. It could be related to this, but it could also be due to a different blood supply to the brain under conditions of weightlessness. More research is needed on this,” says Van Loon.

After returning to Earth, the astronauts’ brain chambers return to their normal size after a few years. Therefore, scientists advise waiting at least three years before the astronaut returns to space, so that the body can recover.

rotating spaceship

Space missions are getting longer. Gravity researcher Jacques Van Loon believes that such long flights are unethical. “If you don’t have sex for a long time, it’s very unhealthy. Muscles, bones, and the immune system change.”

Van Loon says a new type of space station is needed to spend more time in space. He envisions a space station spinning like a great centrifuge. “Because of the rotation, there is gravity on the space station,” says Van Loon. You see it in science fiction movies too gravity. It looks like a utopia, but it isn’t at all.

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