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Study Reveals Effect Of Space Travel On The Brain

The research, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, involved imaging the brains of 15 astronauts before and after extended tours of duty on the International Space Station.


(Astronauts make space tools on board the ISS)

Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure perivascular space—or the space around blood vessels—in the brains of astronauts prior to their launch and again immediately after their return...

Comparing before and after images, they found an increase in the perivascular spaces within the brains of first-time astronauts, but no difference among astronauts who previously served aboard the space station orbiting earth.

"Experienced astronauts may have reached some kind of homeostasis," Piantino said.

The perivascular spaces measured in the brain amount to the underlying "hardware" of the glymphatic system. Enlargement of these spaces occurs in aging, and also has been associated with the development of dementia.

(Via PhysOrg.)

The first science fiction author (or anyone, as far as I know) to use the expression space-sick was Hugo Gernsback in his classic 1911 novel Ralph 124c 41 +; he expanded on his idea in the 1929 edition of his book:

Ralph grew more despondent each day, and his hope of bringing his betrothed back to life grew dimmer and dimmer as the hours rolled on. For the first time since he left the Earth he became space-sick.

Space-sickness is one of the most unpleasant sensations that a human being can experience. Not all are subject to it, and it does not last longer than forty-eight hours, after which it never recurs. On Earth, gravitational action to a certain degree exerts a certain pull on the brain. Out in space, with its practically no gravitational action, this pull ceases. When this happens, the brain is no longer subjected to the accustomed pull, and it expands slightly in all directions, just as a balloon loses its pear shape and becomes round when an aeronaut cuts loose, to drop down with his parachute.

The effect on the brain results in space-sickness, the first symptoms being violent melancholy and depression followed by a terrible and heart-rending longing for Earth.

Compare to space madness from A Daring Trip to Mars (1931) by Max Valier, moon-terror from Star of Dreams (1941) by Jack Williamson, gravitation paralysis from The World With A Thousand Moons (1942) by Edmond Hamilton, Space Scurvy (Kenoalgia) from Sacred Martian Pig (1949) by Margaret Saint Clair and space phobia from Let 'em Breathe Space! (1953) by Lester del Rey.

You might well ask Are You Ready For Commercial Space Travel?

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