The MRI scanner at German space agency DLR ‘:envhiab’ in Cologne, Germany, used also for the Brain-DTI study.
Space travel causes a plethora of medical and neurobehavioural problems, including the loss of muscle and bone mass, weakening of the immune system, impairments of cognitive performance and other effects related to the stressful environment in space.
The :envihab facility allows scientists to monitor physiological changes that occur during spaceflight.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging can identify and monitor structures in the human body. Specialised MRI methods measure water and fat content, sodium content and even blood flow. Localised Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy measures the natural content of highly concentrated metabolites, for example, of muscle energy metabolism. A focus of :envihab scientists is imaging neuroreceptors in the brain involved in sleep–wake regulation and cognitive performance. This research is relevant for humans not only in space, but also on Earth.