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Neural networks in space: how does the brain adapt to weightlessness?

9 Oct 2015, 13:11 UTC
Neural networks in space: how does the brain adapt to weightlessness?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Is Earth up or down? Picture taken by Andreas Mogensen during iriss. Credits: ESA/NASA
Weightlessness and other spaceflight-related factors obviously have a serious impact on human physiology. The effect of weightlessness on the human body has been studied for several human physiological systems, such as the cardiovascular system, bone and muscles and the neuro-sensory system. However, not much is known about how the brain adapts to space.
Researchers from the University of Antwerp, Leuven and Liege as well from Moscow Institute for Biomedical Problems suspect that astronauts’ brains adapt to living in weightlessness by using previously untapped links between neurons. As the astronauts learn to float around in their spacecraft, left–right and up–down become second nature as these connections are activated.
Neural networks showing in MRI scan.
First results have already shown that there is indeed a change in the connection of several pathways in the brain, most probably related to the absence of gravity.
Getting more insight into this adaptation process is of crucial importance for future interplanetary missions such as to Mars and the development of adequate countermeasures against the deleterious effects of weightlessness.
This research is beneficial for all people on Earth as astronaut brains adapt to ...

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