Strain-gauge Plethysmographic Analysis of the CErebral DRainage Experimented and Assessed in the Micro-gravitational Setting (Drain Brain) - 11.22.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
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 crew members 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.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Angelo Taibi, PhD., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Drain Brain

Principal Investigator(s)
Paolo Zamboni, MD, Centro Malattie Vascolari, Italy

Angelo Taibi, PhD., Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara , Italy

University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Italian Space Agency (ASI)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • 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.
  • This research team proposes to develop a strain-gauge plethysmography system to investigate human physiology processes, according to an experimental protocol to be applied by the crew member during the mission on the ISS. The instrumentation is 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 into space in order to understand the modality of brain venous drainage in a microgravitational setting. The research proposal deals with both aims.

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Space Applications
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.

Earth Applications
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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Operational Requirements and Protocols
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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

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Related Websites

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Schema of the stretch sensor of various lengths used for cervical plethysmography tests in the Space. 

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image NASA Image: ISS042E286902 - CSA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti conducts plethysmography and PFS (Pulmonary Function System) measurements during Brain Drain experiment operations.
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image NASA Image: ISS042E286883 - Samantha Cristoforetti conducts plethysmography and PFS (Pulmonary Function System) measurements during Brain Drain experiment operations.
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