Friday, October 14, 2016

Astronauts going to Mars 'could be at risk of space brain dementia'


Astronauts travelling on to Mars on deep space missions could be at the risk of suffering from dementia, scientists have warned.

Experts at the University of California, Irvine are studying the effects of galactic cosmic rays on the brain.

They believe astronauts on extended space flights could suffer from dementia and permanent memory loss due to “the destructive cosmic particles that can forever impair cognition” – a phenomenon which they describe as “space brain”.

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

“The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during, and persist long after, actual space travel – such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making.

“Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life.”

As part of a study, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, scientists exposed rodents to charged particle irradiation (radiation of energy caused by fast-moving subatomic particles) at the Nasa Space Radiation Laboratory in New York.

The researchers found that exposure to these particles resulted in brain inflammation and damage to neurons.

Brain scans showed the neural network was damaged because of a reduction in nerve cells called dendrites and spines, and changes to synapses, which allow neurons to communicate with each other.

The rats also showed decreased performance in tasks designed to test learning and memory.

Limoli said dementia-like symptoms in astronauts travelling to Mars would take months to show, but the time required for a single mission would be sufficient enough for damage to occur.

But he added that astronauts working for extended periods on the International Space Station do not face the same level of cosmic rays bombardment because they are still within the Earth’s protective magnetosphere.


No comments:

Post a Comment