back to article It's official! Space travel increases the brain size of astronauts, even when they're back on Mother Earth

Prolonged periods in space increases brain mass by as much as 6 per cent, according to a new study, but that's not good news. Boffins checking NASA astronauts noted the increase in their brain's white matter – the bundles of nerves that make up the inner workings of the human mind. It seems that living in constant freefall …

  1. Mystic Megabyte


    I was going to be smug but ElReg has beaten me to it :(

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge

    This is a spanner in the works.

    >>>In space, the lack of gravity pushes the fluid towards the top of the head<<<

    Due to our body having evolved in 1G (to keep fluids where they should be) and now able to provide way more fluid pressure than is needed, (hang upside down for 5 mins and take a selfie for a quick demo). Long term changes will be due to the human body slowly changing to fit the new zero-G environment like the reduced muscle & bone density they all suffer from after long term space flight.

    If the additional white matter can't be reduced naturally on returning to 1G then this could be the first indication we have for a real limiting factor on low-g flight duration (does it happen with long term 0.5G?, is the effect linear between 0G & 1G?).

    In the long term, spaceship designs could be fundamentally affected, the trip to Mars could literally be a one way deal.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: This is a spanner in the works.

      Looks as though the only way mankind is going to achieve a significant presence in space is either via bio- engineering humans nor coming up with science fiction's artificial gravity.

      Or a tap on the head!

      1. FeepingCreature

        Re: This is a spanner in the works.

        Or rotating stations... no need for sci-fi.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: This is a spanner in the works.

          We can do both.

          Massive revolving station with a giant brain in a jar controlling it from the centre.

        2. HildyJ Silver badge

          Re: This is a spanner in the works.

          Science fiction told us the way. Willy Ley described it. Chesley Bonestell illustrated it. And Stanley Kubrick brought it to life. For this particular problem, rotation is the key in space. We don't yet know whether the Moon or Mars has sufficient gravity to counteract this effect.

          The spanner enters works when someone decides to make it a race.

          You can have things faster, cheaper, or right. Pick one and only one.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: This is a spanner in the works.

          Or rotating stations... no need for sci-fi.

          I was hoping someone would remember those. For "reasons" the space boffins seemed to have abandoned that idea. Though I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years/decades some boffins says "let's try this big spinning station".

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: This is a spanner in the works.

            He's wrong though. Rotating stations are SciFi. At least until someone builds one. The only real difference is that we know they are possible. It just takes, will, money and a need. But until one is built, it's still fiction. But believe me, I'd love to see one up there. We've got rockets landing vertically now. We've nearly reached the pinnacle of 1950;s SciFi!

        4. JCitizen Bronze badge

          Rotating stations..

          I always liked the one in 2010 Space Odyssey called the Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov; it was voted by some group I don't remember, as being the most realistic space craft in sci-fi movies.

          1. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: Rotating stations..

            Rotating space stations may well be doable as stations but far less practicable as spacecraft. To make them function well, size is everything and the energy to get a space station sized craft moving, braking and manoeuvring is not trivial and would put some interesting stresses on the structure. Have a look at Real Engineering on YT. Can we make artificial gravity.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: This is a spanner in the works.

      It could be worse than that with Mars travellers being incapacitated for weeks after landing on Mars. Assuming they have somewhere to live built by robots sent previously of course. Though they might need robots to carry the 'nauts from the lander into the habs as well. Better send a neuroscientist and an optician along as well.

      BTW you know the deep, long nasal breathing thing we do during sleep? Turns out that induces the CSF to flow back down to the spinal cord where it drains into the lymph carrying metabolites with it. Which is part of why sleep is so important. It enables the brain to take out the rubbish. No or not enough sleep and the rubbish affects function.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: This is a spanner in the works.

        the deep, long nasal breathing thing we do during sleep - that works during meditation too.

    3. slimshady76

      Re: This is a spanner in the works.

      Maybe Dune's Space Guild Navigators are in our future after all... and closer than we thought.

      Icon because Giorgio Tsoukalos thought of it first! --->

  3. carolinahomes

    This is why....

    Aliens depicted in movies all have huge eyes!

    The brain has expanded and pushed the eye flat up against the skull like a pancake getting larger as it gets flatter.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I heard having a brain the size of a planet makes you depressed.

    1. Timbo

      "I heard having a brain the size of a planet makes you depressed."

      Maybe being depressed makes your brain the size of a planet !!

  5. Timbo

    and there was me thinking of Tefal man...

    This is quite amusing...Ms Vorderman, a young-ish Kelly Brook and Harry Enfield in a quirky Tefal advert....

    and one for Tefal steam irons - watch out for the tea lady who's a chess grandmaster !!

    1. AdamT

      ok, i give up. Who is the tea lady?

  6. Neoc

    Are we seeing the emergence of the Newtype? Bring on the Universal Century (but without the UC0079 crap).

  7. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    I was gonna say

    Water on the brain.

  8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    At least they aren't blaming...

    At least they aren't blaming this one on Dark matter :-)

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