Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments

May 6, 2015

Image courtesy of University of California – Irvine

By Science Daily

What happens to an astronaut’s brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It’s besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles — much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights — cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.

“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” said Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in UCI’s School of Medicine. “Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”

For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionized oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before being sent back to Limoli’s Irvine lab.


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8 comments on “Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments

  • 1
    Lorenzo says:

    Oxygen and Titanium? Weren’t they (cosmic rays) mostly protons?

    Anyhow, that cosmic radiation is the issue is clear since a long time.



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  • 2
    ad nauseam says:

    Well then…that puts a damper on the whole Mars colony thing…we would come back 20 years later and they’d all be in Depends reliving their days in Nam…



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  • 3
    Lorenzo says:

    Well, a Mars colony is actually a different scenario: you have got an atmosphere and a planetary magnetic field. Being Mars, neither of those things are going to be as protective as Earth’s ones, since the first is thin (because) the latter is weak, but it’s still a way better shield than when you’re in a capsule on your way there.



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  • ad nauseam
    May 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Well then…that puts a damper on the whole Mars colony thing…we would come back 20 years later and they’d all be in Depends reliving their days in Nam…

    On a planet or moon,, it is possible to make bases underground, or even provide magnetic shields, much more easily than in space.

    Lava tubes around extinct volcanoes could have potential as ready to fit out habitats and workshops.

    @OP – “This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” said Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in UCI’s School of Medicine.

    For the flight to Mars, there are possible ways to mitigate problems, from the obvious option of increasing the speed and reducing the transit time,

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17476-ion-engine-could-one-day-power-39day-trips-to-mars.html#.VUuk_vBHpVk

    Or by providing material or generated shielding, around the crew quarters on the space-craft.



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  • 7
    Lorenzo says:

    Sunsets are a wonderful sight… on every planet in our System.
    Also, fascinating that on Mars the colors appear to be in reverse: reddish during the day and blueish during sundown. The magic of the Rayleigh scattering…



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