Lower body negative pressure reduces optic nerve sheath diameter during head-down tilt

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Nov 1;123(5):1139-1144. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00256.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 17.


The microgravity ocular syndrome (MOS) results in significant structural and functional ophthalmic changes during 6-mo spaceflight missions consistent with an increase in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure compared with the preflight upright position. A ground-based study was performed to assess two of the major hypothesized contributors to MOS, headward fluid shifting and increased ambient CO2, on intracranial and periorbital CSF. In addition, lower body negative pressure (LBNP) was assessed as a countermeasure to headward fluid shifting. Nine healthy male subjects participated in a crossover design study with five head-down tilt (HDT) conditions: -6, -12, and -18° HDT, -12° HDT with -20 mmHg LBNP, and -12° HDT with a 1% CO2 environment, each for 5 h total. A three-dimensional volumetric scan of the cranium and transverse slices of the orbita were collected with MRI, and intracranial CSF volume and optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) were measured after 4.5 h HDT. ONSD increased during -6° (P < 0.001), -12° (P < 0.001), and -18° HDT (P < 0.001) and intracranial CSF increased during -12° HDT (P = 0.01) compared with supine baseline. Notably, LBNP was able to reduce the increases in ONSD and intracranial CSF during HDT. The addition of 1% CO2 during HDT, however, had no further effect on ONSD, but rather ONSD increased from baseline in a similar magnitude to -12° HDT with ambient air (P = 0.001). These findings demonstrate the ability of LBNP, a technique that targets fluid distribution in the lower limbs, to directly influence CSF and may be a promising countermeasure to help reduce increases in CSF.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first study to demonstrate the ability of lower body negative pressure to directly influence cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the optic nerve, indicating potential use as a countermeasure for increased cerebrospinal fluid on Earth or in space.

Keywords: carbon dioxide; cerebrospinal fluid; intracranial pressure; intracranial volumes; microgravity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Fluid Shifts
  • Head-Down Tilt*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Lower Body Negative Pressure*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • Optic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Space Flight
  • Weightlessness Simulation*
  • Young Adult