MRI scans show brain reorganization during long space flights, but no neurodegeneration

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An international team of researchers has found that long space flights can lead to some minor brain reorganization but no neurodegeneration. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their study of the brains of cosmonauts returning from long-term missions aboard the International Space Station, and what they found.

Prior research has shown that long-term space missions can lead to bone and muscle degeneration due to the impact of extended freefall on the body. Some studies have also shown that it can lead to minor loss of visual acuity due to fluid buildup in the eyes. In this new effort, the researchers wanted to know what effects such missions might have on the brains of those who remain in space for long periods of time.

To find out, the researchers conducted a special type of MRI scan on 11 male Russian cosmonauts who had together averaged six months in space aboard the ISS—before and after they returned from their missions—and then again seven months later.

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