Beijing time on December 13, according tomedia reports, in the desolate Antarctic a year, will be affected by our body? According to a new study published recently, the situation may not be optimistic. The study found that polar explorers who had lived at the Antarctic station for 14 months experienced brain atrophy, most likely due to their boring life in isolation.
However, the effects of this brain atrophy are mild and likely temporary for the explorer’s health and cognitive abilities.
Eight members of the expedition participated in the study. Before they left for Neumayer III in Germany’s Antarctic, the researchers scanned their brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Next, the explorers spent up to 14 months at the station, where they had to endure the long antarctic winter nights alone, and the outdoor temperature could drop to minus 50 degrees. During this time, the expedition members regularly tested their cognitive and memory levels and provided blood samples, allowing the study authors to measure their brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) levels. BDNF is a protein that is important to brain health and a neurotrophic factor found in the human nervous system. When they finished their mission and returned to the civilized world, the researchers scanned their brains again.
The researchers compared the final results with those of the expedition’s predecessors before they went to the South Pole, using a group of volunteers of matching ages and genders. They found that the average brain gray matter of the explorers appeared to be less after life in Antarctica, with the seahorse body shrinking the most. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is vital to memory and cognition. The expedition’s BDNF average declined during the trip, and did not improve significantly even a month and a half after returning home.
The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This is not the first study to show that prolonged isolation alters the brain, but researchers say similar studies have actually involved only animals in the past.
Given the harsh conditions of Antarctic expeditions, such as the fact that explorers had to live and work with a few people in the same place, it could have changed the plasticity of their brain hippocampuses, the researchers said. The so-called “plasticity” is the hippocampus’s ability to establish new neural connections. Another culprit for brain atrophy may be related to what researchers call “environmental monotony.” In Antarctic life, explorers stare out of the window day after day, and nothing but pure white snow is visible, which will no doubt create a serious sense of boredom.
Of course, the study involved only eight participants, which were too small, so any conclusions should be treated with caution. The researchers said the findings did not suggest that the explorers’ brains had been irreparably damaged. For example, the explorers did perform slightly worse on tests for spatial reasoning and selective attention, but other cognitive aspects performed normally.
Alexander C. , lead author of the study and a researcher at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. If the expedition members can return to life full of social interaction and fun, the impact on their brain hippocampus is likely to be temporary, Stahn said.
Nevertheless, this discovery is of great significance and deserves further exploration. Scientists will continue to carry out long missions in Antarctica, and in the future humans may even travel to Mars, which could last months or even years. Therefore, the impact of long-term isolation on human health, and how to live in isolation for long periods of time, will be a further exploration of the researchers.