Student Microgravity Project on The Cephalic Fluid Shift and Intracranial Pressure

Sponsored in part by the California Space Grant Consortium under the UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program), UCSD and Grossmont Community College students are studying what happens when blood floods to the head in microgravity. They’ve designed experiments to measure intracranial pressures in microgravity with a machine that mimics fluid flow to the brain. In July 2011, the students will fly their experiments aboard a near-zero gravity parabolic flight in Houston, TX under the NASA “Grant Us Space” microgravity program. The students hope that their findings will teach us more about intracranial pressure in astronauts.

Motivation for this research stems from the fact that weightless migration of bodily fluids produce symptoms such as nausea, headaches and chronic sinus congestion while astronauts are in flight. Their hypothesis is that once blood escapes the downward pull of gravity, much of it flows to the skull causing a dramatic boost of intracranial pressure and many physical problems.  Their primary concern is that this can cause long term effects such as vision loss.

These students have also worked with 7th grade students at Mar Vista Middle School in San Diego in order to promote science and research. The UCSD students are giving public presentations at science fairs and meeting with science students at Grossmont College. Their aim is to expose serious health challenges that astronauts face while living in space.

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