JAN 04, 2018
Investigators explored the effect of spaceflight on the anatomical configuration of the brain and in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) spaces.
Noncontrasted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to image the brains of 34 astronauts. Eighteen went on long missions involving stays on the International Space Station, and 16 went for short missions.
Narrowing of the central sulcus occurred in 17 of 18 astronauts after long-duration flights (mean flight time 164.8 days) and in 3 of 16 astronauts after short-duration flights (mean flight time 13.6 days).
Cine clips from a subgroup of astronauts showed an upward shift in the brain and narrowing of CSF spaces at the vertex, occurring predominantly in astronauts after long trips. Three astronauts in the long-duration group also had optic-disc edema.
The shortcomings include the use of 2 different MRI systems. Cine clips were not used in all patients, and there only a small number of patients who had not flown before.
This paper is important because it adds to the body of evidence that space flight, especially long trips, can cause changes in the brain and elevate intracranial pressure. Further investigation, including repeated postflight imaging conducted after some time on Earth, will be needed to assess the clinical significance of these changes.