Brain ventricular volume changes induced by long-duration spaceflight
Long-duration spaceflight induces detrimental changes in human physiology. Its residual effects and mechanisms remain unclear. We prospectively investigated the changes in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volume of the brain ventricular regions in space crew by means of a region of interest analysis on structural brain scans. Cosmonaut MRI data were investigated preflight (n = 11), postflight (n = 11), and at long-term follow-up 7 mo after landing (n = 7). Post hoc analyses revealed a significant difference between preflight and postflight values for all supratentorial ventricular structures, i.e., lateral ventricle (mean % change ± SE = 13.3 ± 1.9), third ventricle (mean % change ± SE = 10.4 ± 1.1), and the total ventricular volume (mean % change ± SE = 11.6 ± 1.5) (all P < 0.0001), with higher volumes at postflight. At follow-up, these structures did not quite reach baseline levels, with still residual increases in volume for the lateral ventricle (mean % change ± SE = 7.7 ± 1.6; P = 0.0009), the third ventricle (mean % change ± SE = 4.7 ± 1.3; P = 0.0063), and the total ventricular volume (mean % change ± SE = 6.4 ± 1.3; P = 0.0008). This spatiotemporal pattern of CSF compartment enlargement and recovery points to a reduced CSF resorption in microgravity as the underlying cause. Our results warrant more detailed and longer longitudinal follow-up. The clinical impact of our findings on the long-term cosmonauts’ health and their relation to ocular changes reported in space travelers requires further prospective studies.