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A Mission to Mars Could Cause Serious Brain Damage

Space is a dangerous place. A new report shows just how dangerous it could be to human brains. Radiation exposure from a Mars missions could cook brain cells, causing chronic dementia and memory loss, and leaving astronauts with debilitating anxiety levels, the study has found. This could throw off their thinking and judgment, impairing decision-making and multi-tasking.

The results, published in Scientific Reports, are based on experiments in rodents. Radiation oncologist Charles Limoli and his colleagues at the University of California Irvine bombarded mice and rats with low-doses of ionized oxygen or titanium. These charged particles have similar energies to those of cosmic rays that can pass right through the shielding on spacecraft. The dosage levels that the researchers used were similar to what astronauts would be exposed to during a three-year round-trip mission to Mars, Limoli says.

The researchers looked at the prefrontal cortex, the brain region linked to decision-making, executive function, and long-term memory. They saw significant damage and inflammation in the brains of exposed animals as long as six months after the exposure.

The radiation damaged the tiny branches on neurons that help transmit electric signals to the nerve cell body. This led to a loss in learning and memory. The exposed animals performed poorly on behavioral tests that measure intelligence, and they showed higher,…[Read more]


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