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Life on the ISS changed the brains of astronauts

Life on the ISS changed the brains of astronauts 86

Russian and European scientists have followed how long life aboard the International Space Station (ISS) influenced the structure of the brain of astronauts. Scientists have found small temporary changes in the amount of white and gray matter in the front and back of the brain. Seven months after returning to Earth, these changes have almost completely disappeared, scientists write in the scientific journal Science Advances.

“For the first time, we observed how the centers of movement and other regions of the brain adapt to life in space. It turned out that they increase the volume of white matter and change the nature of connections between nerve cells. In addition, we found new evidence that changes in the shape and structure of the brain related to how the cerebrospinal fluid behaves in zero gravity, “- the researchers write.

Scientists have been researching for years how life in space affects the health and functioning of the immune system in humans and animals. For example, four years ago, they found out why astronauts in zero gravity have vision problems, and also learned what caused astronauts to fall and lose their balance on the moon.

Scientists recently discovered that long flights into space irreversibly weaken the muscles in the back and lead to a round heart . Experiments on animals have also shown that flying to Mars can negatively affect the psyche and mental abilities of astronauts due to the way cosmic rays affect brain cells.

A group of space physicians from Russia and Europe led by a researcher at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) Ben Jerissen for the first time traced how long-term expeditions to the ISS influenced the micro- and macrostructure of the brain of astronauts.

Life on the ISS changed the brains of astronauts 87
© EPA-EFE / MAXIM SHIPENKOV

This study involved nine ISS crew members who agreed to undergo pre-flight and post-flight examinations. The astronauts were examined using conventional magnetic resonance imaging machines and their diffuse variety, which can directly measure how the structure of the brain has changed in each three-dimensional “pixel” of the image they receive.

Brain, eyes and space

Thanks to this, physicians for the first time followed what small changes in the structure of the brain led to major shifts in its work and shape, previously discovered using conventional MRI systems. In particular, scientists found that after being on the ISS, the amount of white matter and its distribution over the brains of astronauts changed markedly.

Most of these changes affected the cerebellum and anterior regions of the brain, including the lateral sulcus and anterior temporal and orbital-frontal lobes of the cortex, where the amount of white matter increased significantly, as well as the central sulcus and superior frontal cortex, where the opposite occurred.

In general, there is more white matter in the front of the brain and less in the back regions. Scientists attribute this to the fact that the centers of movement and other areas of the nervous system adapt to movement and navigation in zero gravity and with the fact that the accumulations of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain are redistributed, “floating up”.

At the same time, Jerissen and his colleagues did not notice that the nervous tissue degenerated or irreversible changes appeared in the brain structure. Most of these anomalies, with the exception of shifts in the size of the central furrow, completely disappeared approximately seven months after returning to Earth.

In addition, scientists have figured out a possible reason why many astronauts and cosmonauts lose vision during flight and after returning to Earth. Their results show that this problem is associated with an increase in the volume of the cerebral ventricles – special cavities where cerebrospinal fluid accumulates.

This finding came as a surprise to the researchers, as previous studies indicated that changes in the pressure and position of nerves inside the eyes were the cause of vision problems, rather than abnormalities in other areas of the brain. To understand which of the two theories is closer to the truth, the following observations will help, Jerissen and his colleagues hope.

Space

In December, Earth’s inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 100

At the end of the year, astronomers expect to see a rare cosmic phenomenon dubbed the “Christmas star” in the sky. It will be caused by the fact that Saturn and Jupiter come close to each other at a minimum distance and almost collide to become one super-bright point of light.

These two planets became one straight line in the solar system a few weeks ago, but at the end of December they will be on it for observers from Earth. This will happen on December 21, 2020, on the day of the winter solstice, when the daylight hours are the shortest and the night is the longest. Jupiter and Saturn will look like a “double planet” for the first time since the Middle Ages, Forbes writes.

“The conjunctions of the two planets are extremely rare, but this particular conjunction is especially rare because the planets will be very close to each other,” Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, USA said. “In order to observe a closer conjunction of these planets in the night sky, we would have to return on March 4, 1226.”

It is noted that the unusual celestial phenomenon can be observed from anywhere on the planet. The main thing is that the sky is clear. The “Christmas Star” can be seen in the western sky about an hour after sunset when viewed from the northern hemisphere.

“On the evening of their closest approach, December 21, they will appear as a twin planet, separated by less than 1/5 the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan said. “For most amateur astronomers looking at the night sky through a telescope, both planets and several of their largest satellites will be in the same field of view this evening.”

In December, Earth's inhabitants will be able to see a rare cosmic phenomenon 101

Those who want to see Jupiter and Saturn converge in the sky as close, but will be higher above the horizon, will have to wait until March 15, 2080, Hartigan said. After that, a similar configuration for this planetary pair will not be observed until 2400.

Astronomers are already preparing equipment to analyze in detail the upcoming event. Everything is very serious, because the second such rapprochement between Jupiter and Saturn cannot be expected.

Of course, there will not be a collision of planets. You just get the impression that something terrible is about to happen in the solar system. Astronomers have assured that there is no reason to worry.

Is the “Christmas Star” an omen of things to come? Mark your calendars! 

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Space

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth

A giant asteroid worth $ 17.4 billion is approaching Earth 102

NASA announced the imminent flight of a potentially dangerous asteroid will pass the Earth. The website of the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects says that a celestial body ranging in size from 370 to 820 meters will approach the planet on November 29.

The asteroid, consisting of nickel, iron and cobalt, is approaching the Earth. The cost of minerals in its composition reaches $ 17.4 billion, with reference to the Asterank database, which contains data on 600 thousand asteroids.

The distance between the asteroid 153201 (2000 WO107) and the Earth will be more than 4 million kilometers, the Space Reference specified with reference to NASA data. It is noted that the distance from the Earth to the Moon is 10 times less, and the asteroid is considered dangerous because it crosses the orbit of our planet.

According to the NASA Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects, the celestial body will approach the Earth on November 29. 

It is noted that this time the asteroid does not pose a threat to the planet, however, it belongs to the group of potentially dangerous ones, since its trajectory crosses the Earth’s orbit.

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Space

Intrusive buzzing. The Perseverance rover recorded the space sounds of its flight to Mars

Intrusive buzzing. The Perseverance rover recorded the space sounds of its flight to Mars 103

NASA’s new rover is equipped with a microphone to record sounds during landing on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is en route to Mars, has recorded its flight to the planet.

The new rover is equipped with a microphone designed to record sound when entering the atmosphere, descent and landing. The device should arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

But before the rover reached its destination, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released an audio file recording what the rover “hears” during its interplanetary voyage.

The 60-second recording, posted on SoundCloud, was captured on Oct.19 while checking the rover’s EDL and microphone system.

Experts explain that the buzzing sound comes from a pump that pumps fluid to regulate the rover’s temperature.

NASA compares the new hit for your playlist to the noise you hear on wired headphones when the wire rubs against your clothing. It was these mechanical vibrations that the Perseverance microphone picked up.

“Located at the rear of the starboard side of the Perseverance, the pump is part of the unit’s heat system that maintains operating temperatures for the equipment, even in the coldest locations,” JPL said in a statement.

“I apologize to the person who came up with the slogan for the film” Alien “(” No one in space will hear your scream “- ed.), Perhaps no one will hear the scream, but perhaps a pump to remove heat will be heard,” says a leading engineer at JPL Dave Gruel.

He added that the microphone picks up the hum of the pump through mechanical vibration.

The Perseverance rover is supposed to land on Mars on February 18, 2021 in the Jezero crater – it is believed that a riverbed used to pass through this area. This is one of those places where traces of living organisms on the planet could be preserved.

The main mission of the rover is to detect signs of life in order to advance the study of the ancient history of Mars. In addition, the device will become part of a mission to deliver samples from the surface of the red planet: it will dig out rock at certain points, and then another device will pick them up, which will send them to Earth.

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