Expedition to Mars can damage the human brain

During the 30-day experiment, simulating the conditions of life on the Red Planet, part of the left hippocampus of participants was reduced by three percent.

The publication New Scientist reports that the international conference Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, held in Berlin, was made by NASA specialists who presented the results of a study devoted to the brain’s reaction to a trip to Mars. According to them, the hippocampus of astronauts will have to decrease during the expedition.

Space flights involve numerous threats: from exposure to radiation to an increased risk of heart attack. Before sending people on a long-term flight to Mars, which can take two years, all possible risks must be taken into account. To do this, Space Agency researchers conducted an experiment with 16 volunteers, which showed what changes in the brain can occur during the mission.

Sixteen people worked for 30 days in conditions that simulated the Martian base. All this time, next to them were three other workers. Each week they were given one day off.

The researchers found that one of the extremities of the left hippocampus on average decreased by three percent. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that fixes memories. His study is important not only because of the role of memory in the work, but also because he is responsible for the formation of orientation in space, which is extremely necessary in space travel. However, according to computer tests conducted during the experiment, the spatial thinking of the participants has not changed.

One of the members of the research group Anika Werner (Anika Werner) expressed her own hypothesis about the results. In her opinion, the reduction could cause conditions: social isolation and stress from round-the-clock surveillance. She warned that these changes are reversible because of the plasticity of the brain, but they should still be considered.

In addition, the process itself remains a mystery to scientists. They do not know exactly what causes the contraction. The source can be both the withering away of existing cells, and the reorganization of connections between neurons. In the future, they hope to find out the reason.

In August, experts from Google, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California have teamed up to conduct a large-scale study of brain aging. They scanned 31 227 people using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and compared the predicted age of participants’ brain with their real age to understand what factors contribute to aging.