Space Travel Has Long-Lasting Effects on the Brain

Medscape Staff

April 18, 2023

The human brain adjusts to weightlessness in space, and those changes remain months after the return to earth, according to researchers at the University of Antwerp and the University of Liège.

What to Know

  • On earth, the brain adapts to the physical laws of gravity to function optimally, while in the weightless environment of space, the brain's rules about gravity no longer apply, and it must adapt to weightlessness.

  • Astronauts' brain data were collected while the astronatus were in a resting condition to enable scientists to investigate the brain's default state of functional connectivity and to find out whether or not this connectivity changes after long-duration space flight.

  • After space flight, connectivity was altered in regions that support the integration of different types of information, rather than dealing with only one type each time, such as visual, auditory, or movement information.

  • Some communication patterns altered by weightlessness were retained throughout an 8-month period back on Earth, while others returned to the level at which the areas were functioning before the space mission.

  • Retained changes in brain communication may indicate a learning effect, while transient changes may indicate more acute adaptation to changed gravity levels.

This is a summary of the article, "Prolonged Microgravity Induces Reversible and Persistent Changes on Human Cerebral Connectivity," published in the journal Circulation on January 23, 2023. The full article can be found on

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.