High altitude flying linked to brain lesions

In a study of MRI brain scans on 102 military pilots and 91 non-pilots aged 26–50, US researchers found the pilots had nearly four times the volume and three times the number of white matter hyperintensities as non-pilots. The lesions were distributed throughout the brain rather than being found in frontal white matter as occurs in ageing.

Pilots flying at altitudes above 18,000 feet (5500m) are at risk for decompression sickness, and rates are rising, the researchers said.

Neurology 2013; online 19 August