The influence of microgravity on cerebral blood flow and electrocortical activity

  • Timo Klein
  • Petra Wollseiffen
  • Marit Sanders
  • Jurgen Claassen
  • Heather Carnahan
  • Vera Abeln
  • Tobias Vogt
  • Heiko K. Strüder
  • Stefan SchneiderEmail author
Research Article


Changes in gravity conditions have previously been reported to influence brain hemodynamics as well as neuronal activity. This paper attempts to identify a possible link between changes in brain blood flow and neuronal activity during microgravity. Middle cerebral artery flow velocity (MCAv) was measured using Doppler ultrasound. Brain cortical activity (i.e., cortical current density) was measured using electroencephalography. Finger blood pressure was recorded and exported to generate beat-by-beat systolic (SBP), diastolic (DBP) and mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), cardiac output (CO), and cerebrovascular conductance index (CVCi). Seventeen participants were evaluated under normal gravity conditions and microgravity conditions, during 15 bouts of 22-s intervals of weightlessness during a parabolic flight. Although MAP decreased and CO increased, MCAv remained unchanged in the microgravity condition. CVCi as the quotient of MCAv and MAP increased in microgravity. Cortical current density showed a global decrease. Our data support earlier data reporting a decrease in the amplitude of event-related potentials recorded during microgravity. However, the general decrease in neural excitability in microgravity seems not to be dependent on hemodynamic changes.


Parabolic flight EEG Transcranial Doppler ultrasound MCA 



We would like to thank each of our participants for delivering 100% of data although their world was turned upside down! We would like to thank Brain Products and ADInstruments and MedCat (The Netherlands) for renting out equipment that made our life much easier in these extreme conditions. It is a pleasure working with you and we are extremely thankful for your support. And of course, for the brilliant hardware you deliver! Finally, we would like to thank two unknown reviewers for their valuable comments, which improved the quality of the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors have approved the final article. This study was made possible by a grant from German Space Agency (50WB1561). Beside all authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Movement and NeurosciencesGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Science Health and EducationUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydoreAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Geriatric Medicine, Radboud Alzheimer Centre, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and BehaviourRadboud University Medical CenterNijmegenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.School of Maritime Studies, Offshore Safety and Survival Centre, Marine InstituteMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  5. 5.Institute of Professional Sport Education and Sport QualificationsGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany

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