What happens to the brain in weightlessness? A first approach by EEG tomography

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Basic changes in environmental conditions are fundamental to understanding brain cortical mechanisms. Several studies have reported impairment of central nervous processes during weightlessness. There is ongoing debate as to whether these impairments are attributable to primary physiological effects or secondary psychological effects of the weightlessness environment. This study evaluates the physiological effects of changed gravity conditions on brain cortical activity. In a first experiment, EEG activity of seven participants was recorded at normal, increased and zero gravity during a parabolic flight. Additionally an EEG under normal gravity conditions preflight was recorded. In a second experiment, 24 participants were exposed to a supine, seated and 9 degree head-down tilt position while EEG was recorded. Data were analysed using low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). Beta-2 EEG activity (18-35 Hz) was found to be increased in the right superior frontal gyrus under normal gravity conditions inflight. By exposure to weightlessness a distinct inhibition of this activity within the same areas could be noticed. As the tilt experiment showed changes in the left inferior temporal gyrus in supine and tilted positions we conclude that the observed changes under weightlessness are not explainable by hemodynamic changes but rather reflect emotional processes related to the experience of weightlessness. These findings suggest that weightlessness has a major impact on electro cortical activity and may affect central nervous and adaptation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1316-1323
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2008

ID: 34224

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