Space Travel Affects the Brain

The brain restructures itself to adapt to spending extended periods in space, according to a collaborative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, a team of international researchers led by the University of Antwerp.

What to Know

  • The brain’s own neuroplasticity has the capability of altering its shape and function to adapt to extended spaceflight.

  • After extended time in space, neural connections between several motor areas of the brain show significant microstructural changes in several white matter tracts, such as the sensorimotor tracts.

  • In weightlessness, astronauts need to adapt their movements drastically, compared to on Earth, and the brain makes its own adaptations to help them accommodate.

  • The follow-up scans revealed that 7 months after returning to Earth, these changes were still visible.

  • This is the first study to analyze the structural connectivity changes that happen in the brain after long-duration spaceflight.

This is a summary of the article, “Brains of Cosmonauts Get ‘Rewired’ to Adapt to Long-term Space Missions, Study Finds,” published by Frontiers in Neural Circuits on February 19. The full article can be found on

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