EXPERIMENT RECORD N° 9439
BRAIN-DTI - Microgravity induced neuroplasticity after parabolic flight studied with advanced MRI techniques
  1. 2014 • 60th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign
  2. 2014 • 61st ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign
Life Sciences:
  • Neuroscience
A300 ZERO-G Airbus
Jennifer Ngo-Anh
jennifer.ngo-anh@esa.int
A. Van Ombergen (1), B. Jeurissen (2), E. Tomilovskaya (3), I. Kozlovskaya (3), A. Demertzi (4), L. Heine (4), D. Loeckx (5), J. Sijbers (2), A. Van der Linden (6), F. Vanhevel (11), S. Sunaert (7), S. Laureys (4), A. Choukèr (8), V. Dousset (9), V. Sinitsyn (10), E. Mirshina (10), P. van den Heyning (1), P.M. Parizel (11), F. Wuyts (1)
(1)  
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Floris Wuyts
University of Antwerp
AUREA - Antwerp University Research Center for Equilibrium and Aerospace
Wilrijkstraat 10
2650 Edegem
BELGIUM
Tel:  
+32(0)38214710
e-mail:  
floris.wuyts@uantwerp.be
Angelique.VanOmbergen@uantwerp.be
(2)  
Vision Lab
University of Antwerp
Antwerp
BELGIUM
(3)  
Participation only in 60th PFC.
Institute of Biomedical Problems
Moscow
RUSSIA
(4)  
Participation of L. Heine only in 60th PFC.
COMA Science Group
University of Liège
Liège
BELGIUM
(5)  
Participation only in 60th PFC.
icoMetrix
Leuven
BELGIUM
(6)  
Participation only in 60th PFC.
Bio-Imaging Lab
University of Antwerp
Antwerp
BELGIUM
(7)  
Radiology Department
Leuven University Hospital
Leuven
BELGIUM
(8)  
Participation only in 60th PFC.
Klinikum Innestadt Anaesthesiology
München
GERMANY
(9)  
CHU Pellegrin
Bordeaux
FRANCE
(10)  
Participation only in 60th PFC.
Federal Center of Medicine and Rehabilitation Radiology
Moscow
RUSSIA
(11)  
Radiology Department
Antwerp University Hospital
Antwerp
BELGIUM

The 61st ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign took place from 1 September to 12 September 2014 and was conducted from Bordeaux-Mérignac airport in France. While the first week was dedicated to the preparation of the experiments and the experiment integration into the airplane, during the second week three parabolic flights (9, 10, 11 September) were performed.

The 60th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign took place during the time period of 31 March to 11 April 2014 from Bordeaux-Mérignac airport in France. While the first week was dedicated to the preparation of the experiments and the experiment integration into the airplane, during the second week three parabolic flights were performed.

OBJECTIVES
Gravity transitions and microgravity provoke significant physiological changes to the human body; muscle atrophy, cardiovascular impact, radiation, just to name a few. Most space travellers also suffer from space motion sickness (SMS) and spatial disorientation, however, the majority of astronauts cope with these effects after the first days. Interestingly, second time space travelers experience less SMS and related problems than first time flyers. Similarly, this can also be seen in parabolic flight (PF) campaigns. Both phenomena can be explained by the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections, so-called neuroplasticity. The objective of this study is to identify the action sites in the brain where this neuroplasticity takes place and the same study protocol will be applied to space travellers after a long-duration mission. This project is part of the ESA BRAIN-DTI project (ISLRA-2009-1062) and the ESA 60th (LS-60/3) and 61st Parabolic Flight Campaigns (LS-61/5).

Comparison between PF microgravity and spaceflight long-duration microgravity could elucidate group differences at certain regions and tracts. Finally, the identification of sites of neuroplasticity related to adaptation to microgravity, g-level transitions, and ‘coping with motion sickness’ could be used to verify these ROI in patients that suffer from continuous vertigo or instability, due to inappropriate adaptation after lesions, or patients with ‘mal de debarquement’ syndrome.

HYPOTHESIS
The hypothesis of this study is that short-duration microgravity and gravity transitions, experienced during parabolic flight, induce neuroplasticity in different regions of interest (ROI) in the brain that are involved in the integration of neurosensory information, provided by the vestibular organs, vision and proprioception.

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By means of advanced MRI methods (DTI, DKI, HARDI, VBM and rfMRI), we hypothesise that biomarkers for neuroplasticity can be identified when MRI images of the same subject, acquired before (L-10, L-2) and after parabolic flight (R+0, R+3, R+7, R+45, R+90), are compared with each other. Consequently this will allow for the identification of specific regions of interest (ROI) and fiber tracts that are involved in neuro-vestibular processes. Additionally, we want to compare these results with data we will collect in 12 cosmonauts flying to the ISS.

Our preliminary results from the 60th ESA parabolic flight campaign by means of VBM analysis showed a decrease from pre- to post-parabolic flight in GM volume in the insular cortex and the inferior and medial frontal cortex. We also found an increase in GM volume in the cerebellar regions, middle temporal cortex and the occipital – and parietal cortex, including cuneus and precuneus. Data from the 61st ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign will be collected and added to our data analysis. Parallel assessment of long-duration space travellers is ongoing. 
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Whole brain tractography. Courtesy of Ben Jeurissen

Explanation of the experiment as conducted during the 60th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign.
 
© 2015 European Space Agency