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Does mountain climbing cause brain damage?

Researchers in Spain studied the effects of high altitude on climbers by giving MRIs to a group of experienced climbers, a group of amateur climbers and a control group. The researchers assigned the climbers to one of four different mountains: Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,563 feet/5,962.8 m), Mont Blanc (15,771 feet/4,807 m), Mt. Aconcagua (22,834 feet/6,959.8 m) and Mt. Everest (29,035 feet/8,849,87 m).

After climbing Everest, only one of the 13 climbers had a normal MRI. The others had lesions, or they had enlargements in the spaces in their brain that normally exist around blood vessels. Climbers from the other mountains also showed higher rates of abnormalities and lesions. The control group had normal MRIs. Researchers determined the evidence was sufficient to conclude that high altitude climbing can cause brain damage, and it was even more likely among amateurs than among professional climbers. Additional studies are being done to test this theory, according to the American Journal of Medicine.

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