Detecting neuroplastic changes in astronauts

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Understanding the impact of space travel on the brain has become increasingly important as the space industry plans to send humans to Mars within the next decade. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) research has indicated significant and inconsistent structural changes in the brains of astronauts as a result of spaceflight. Volumetric brain changes in astronauts have the potential to cause significant and even life-threatening consequences. Recently, research has demonstrated that reports of these volumetric changes may be corrupted by the upward shift of the brain within the skull and a redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) resulting from microgravity. This CSF shift may create errors in the classification of the dura mater from other various tissue types, producing erroneous claims of volumetric neuroplastic brain changes resulting from spaceflight. This research was developed with the aim of reducing these classification errors through the investigation of a variety of newer MRI scans and protocols that may better account for a physical displacement of the brain and CSF in the skull. Manual tissue segmentation was performed on the standard modality to provide a comparison measure. Automated tissue segmentation was performed in each modality. Dice coefficients were calculated, and a repeated measures factorial analysis of variance was performed, followed by paired-samples t-tests. Total grey matter volume measures were obtained, and a repeated-factorial analysis of variance as well as follow up comparisons were performed for this measure as well. The primary hypothesis for this work was not confirmed, as no certain modality consistently outperformed MPRAGE across all automated software. This research may help inform modality selection for astronauts, as well as caution reporting or interpreting neuroplastic brain changes in astronauts using standard methodology.
dura, astronaut, cerebrospinal fluid, tissue segmentation
Berger, L. (2023). Detecting neuroplastic changes in astronauts (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from