Long space journeys could wreck your eyeballs... and brain

Fresh off the news that microgravity screws us up on a cellular level comes word that it also damages our eyes and brain. Researchers from the University of Texas, Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering, and NASA's Department of Space Medicine performed MRIs on 27 astronauts who had spent an average of 108 days in microgravity.

Those astronauts showed signs similar to idiopathic intracranial hypertension — brain pressure of unknown origin. Of those 27 space-farers, the MRIs showed:

expansion of the cerebral spinal fluid space surrounding the optic nerve in nine of the 27 (33 percent) astronauts, flattening of the rear of the eyeball in six (22 percent), bulging of the optic nerve in four (15 percent) and changes in the pituitary gland and its connection to the brain in three (11 percent) of the astronauts

These types of abnormality are also associated with idiopathic intracranial hypertension — and so it seems that microgravity can cause intracranial hypertension on the lucky few who get to spacewalk. Which means that this is one more hurdle we'll have to face before sending people long term into space. So, what'll it be, robot bodies or artificial gravity?