Long-term risks of living in space include bone loss or muscle weakness, just to name a few harmful side effects, so leaving gravity behind certainly has its obstacles.
Some of these potential roadblocks have already been extensively studied or are currently being investigated, but MUSC Health researchers have found an important but neglected area of space that needs to be further studied: the brain and the effect of gravity on vision.
The FUNDAMENTAL role of SPAIN in the SPACE RACE
Neuroocular syndrome associated with space flight
In a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers have analyzed the so-called neuroocular syndrome associated with space flight (SANS) and have compared brain scans before and after spaceflight.
The longer astronauts stay in space, the more they report blurred vision and vision problems when they return to Earth. This is why they even wear extra glasses when they go into space. It affects 70% of astronauts.
With SANS, astronauts return to earth with altered visual acuity. The blood cells in his eyes flatten, parts of his retinas are injured, and his optic discs swell. Some astronauts recover from these changes in a few weeks, while others can take months or even years. There are also some who never fully recover..
NASA has ranked SANS as one of its top research priorities, according to the authors of this study, and the results of the study advance that research by providing information about what happens to the brain and sight in space. Much of the research focuses on the loss of muscle mass in space, but rarely focuses on the brain specifically.
Later, Roberts and Rosenberg, the study’s lead authors, will discuss the ways in which SANS can differ between genders.. Without being able to perform an MRI in space, Roberts says it’s difficult to pin down exactly when the change in the dural venous sinuses occurs (it could be during take-off from flight, in space, or while acclimating to the ground upon return), for which is also investigating a mobile MRI machine to perform scans in space to better understand how the condition develops.