Space can really mess with an astronaut's body — and apparently it can change the structure of their brain, too.
A NASA-backed study looked at how long-term and short-term space travel affects the brain. Particularly, how changes in brain structure from spaceflight might contribute to certain symptoms astronauts experience.
MRI scans showed the brains of most astronauts in the study who went on longer flights had noticeable changes — like shifting upward and changes in structure. Those changes happened less frequently after shorter trips.
But space can mess with the body in other ways, too. Early results from NASA's Twins Study found space travel changes the way genes are expressed.
Extended space stays can also temporarily make astronauts taller, cause them to lose bone mass if they don't exercise and may even alter their immune systems.
NASA does what it can to learn about potential adverse effects of space travel, like conducting bed rest studies to see how the body adapts to weightlessness.
The results from the recent brain structure study may aid NASA in figuring out why many astronauts experience poorer vision after time in space.
At the very least, NASA says the observed changes show more research needs to be done — especially since the agency wants to send a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.