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Study Underscores Changes in Brain Structure, Function in Long-duration Space Missions

1 Nov 2019, 11:52 UTC
Study Underscores Changes in Brain Structure, Function in Long-duration Space Missions
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A new study demonstrates for the first time that changes in cognitive performance correlate with changes in brain structure in NASA astronauts following spaceflight. How the human brain adapts in space or in a microgravity environment is the subject of continuing research by neuroradiologist Donna R. Roberts, M.D., Department of Radiology and Radiological Science at MUSC. The American Journal of Neuroradiology published Roberts’ paper, “Prolonged Microgravity Affects Human Brain Structure and Function” online in October.Previously, Roberts’ research reported an upward shift of the brain, crowding of tissue at the top of the brain and enlargement of the ventricular system in astronauts following long-duration missions in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS).In this study, Roberts and her colleagues reviewed brain magnetic resonance (MR) imaging scans of NASA astronauts and saw widespread brain structural changes, especially after extended spaceflight missions. They found that those structural changes correlated with changes in the astronauts’ motor skills and cognitive performance in postflight testing.“This study looks at cognitive changes in the brains of astronauts,” said Roberts. “Not a lot is known about cognitive impairment in humans during spaceflight. Although this study evaluates a small subset of astronauts, it’s significantly larger than any previously published study ...

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