USW professor carries out brain research in zero-gravity

Professor Damian Bailey

Professor Damian Bailey

A University of South Wales (USW) researcher has been carrying out experiments that will help to improve the understanding of what impact zero-gravity has on human bodies.

Professor Damian Bailey spent a week based in France looking at how space flight can affect the way blood makes its way through the brain. 

With the European Space Agency (ESA) funding the research, which will look at how lengthy space missions can impact on astronauts, the findings have been made available to be used in wider research.

Taking off from Bordeaux, Prof Bailey carried out a number of parabolic flights on a plane known as the ‘Vomit Comet’, which flies to various altitudes, with zero-gravity experienced during the ‘dive’ part of the trip.

Professor Bailey getting used to working in a weightless environment 

“The plane switches from a hypergravity 2G (when climbing) to a zero-gravity weightlessness (when diving), then levelling out to 1G, what you and I would experience at sea-level,” Prof Bailey said.

“We’re looking to see if the weightlessness research can inform some of the exercise interventions that we actually deliver to volunteers, the aim being trying to figure out what is it about flow through the brain that is protective over the adult lifespan, and how can exercise, ultimately, optimise this,” he said.

The weightlessness experiment is just one that Prof Bailey and his team are associated with at USW. They are also focusing on what impact a high fat diet can have on the brain.

DaMian Bailey weightless“Obesity is a major issue. The problem with the brain is that it’s invisible, you can see your belly, but you can’t see your brain because it’s encased in this hardened skull,” Prof Bailey said.

“We know there are many things that are good for the brain, such as exercise, and many things that are bad for the brain, be it concussion, be it a high-fat meal.

“We are using what we have found to look at this in more depth, and possibly inform further research into other neurological conditions, such as dementia.”


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