Spaceflight Causes Brain Changes Similar to Aging, Only Faster Interview with:

Rachael D. Seidler, PhD Professor, Applied Physiology & Kinesiology University of Florida

Dr. Seidler

Rachael D. Seidler, PhD
Professor, Applied Physiology & Kinesiology
University of Florida What is the background for this study?

Response: There is accumulating evidence that spaceflight impacts the human brain: the brain is shifted higher within the skull and there are some regions of gray matter increases and decreases.

To date, no studies have looked at the impact of spaceflight on human brain white matter pathways. Rodents flown in space show decreased myelination of white matter pathways. Here, we analyzed brain MRI scans pre and post spaceflight to quantify fluid shifts and white matter changes.

"Space shuttle nose pointing to the earth" by Marc Van Norden is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: What are the main findings? 

Response: As the brain shifts up in the skull there is decreased fluid around the top and increases around the bottom. White matter declines are evident post spaceflight in brain regions that control movement and process sensory feedback. These changes are similar to what occur with aging, but happened in a shorter period of time.

In some brain regions, larger white matter changes are associated with poorer balance post spaceflight What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Brain white matter pathways exhibit deterioration with spaceflight; we do not know whether these changes might be greater for longer duration missions such as to Mars. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Our ongoing work is examining how long these changes last post spaceflight, and whether they are associated with the transient cognitive and motor declines that astronauts exhibit post spaceflight.

No disclosures


Lee JK, Koppelmans V, Riascos RF, et al. Spaceflight-Associated Brain White Matter Microstructural Changes and Intracranial Fluid Redistribution. JAMA Neurol. Published online January 23, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.4882


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