Strain-gauge Plethysmographic Analysis of the CErebral DRainage Experimented and Assessed in the Micro-gravitational Setting (Drain Brain) - 09.17.14
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On Earth, blood flows down from a person’s brain back toward the heart thanks in part to gravity, but very little is known about how this flow happens without gravity’s effects. Many crewmembers report headaches and other neurological symptoms in space, which may be related to the absence of gravity acting on blood flowing through the veins. Drain Brain uses a special neck collar to measure blood flow from the brain, to help researchers understand which physical processes in the body can compensate for the lack of gravity to ensure blood flows properly.
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OpNom Drain Brain
University of Ferrara, , , Italy
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Italian Space Agency (ASI)
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - October 2015
Previous ISS Missions
- In the human being, cerebral circulation, including the venous outflow mechanisms from the skull, is one of the major regulators of the brain physiology. Currently, due to the inherent variability and complexity of the cerebral venous system, there is a lack of methodology for reliable and objective quantification of the cerebral venous return. Moreover, since cerebral venous return is greatly influenced by the gravitational gradient when up-right, and by the thoracic respiratory pump when supine, very little is known about the mechanisms ensuring blood outflow from the brain in a condition of microgravity.
- We propose to develop a strain-gauge plethysmography system to investigate human physiology processes, according to an experimental protocol to be applied by the crewmember during the mission on the ISS. The instrumentation will be used on board the ISS both to study cerebral venous return in microgravity conditions and to properly understand the phenomena of physiological adaptation.
- Strain-gauge plethysmography is a non-invasive technique that measures variations in capacitance associated with changes in blood volume, recorded through a stretch sensor encircling the neck. Thus, it is ideal to investigate patients because it is not operator-dependent and non-invasive but it can also to be transported in the space in order to understand the modality of brain venous drainage in a microgravitational setting. Our research proposal deals with both aims.
Drain Brain studies how blood returns to the heart from the brain through veins in an astronaut’s neck. This can help scientists better understand the mechanisms that ensure proper blood flow in microgravity. ISS Crewmembers report a variety of neurological symptoms that may be related to changes in this blood flow. The project also studies how blood flow changes in response to crewmember schedules in space, which do not follow the typical day-night schedule of most humans on Earth.
The instrument developed for Drain Brain, called a strain-gauge plethysmograph, does not require any surgery or special knowledge, which could make it an ideal tool for monitoring patients with a wide range of heart or brain disorders. In previous research, the scientists who developed the instrument identified a possible link between some neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, and blockage of veins that connect to the brain. Researchers are also interested in studying the connection between these brain-related veins and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Drain Brain’s novel system could be a new way to screen for this vein abnormality.
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