MRIs reveal the effects of microgravity on astronauts’ brains

Astronauts living and working in space will experience the detrimental effects of microgravity on the human body. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, for example, have experienced altered vision and increased pressure inside their heads, symptoms termed as visual impairment intracranial pressure (VIIP) syndrome.

VIIP syndrome is thought to be related to the redistribution of body fluid toward the head during long-term microgravity exposure, but the exact cause is unknown. To investigate the impact of microgravity on the human brain, neuroradiologist Donna Roberts, from the Medical University of South Carolina, has used MRI to investigate the anatomy of the brain following space flight (N. Engl. J. Med. 377 1746).

“Exposure to the space environment has permanent effects on humans that we simply do not understand,” said Roberts. “What astronauts experience in space must be mitigated to produce safer space travel for the public.”

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