The results of this study are based on researches practiced on rodents. Radiation oncologist Charles Limoli and his team members at the University of Californic Irvine tested rats and mice with small-doses of titanium and ionized oxygen. These charged elements have equal energies to such of cosmic rays that can travel through the protective layering on spacecraft.
The levels of dosage that the scientists utilized were similar to what the astronauts would be revealed to during a three-year trip mission to Mars in space, confirms Limoli. The scientists checked the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain connected to decision-making, long-term memory and executive functioning ability. They witnessed drastic inflammation and damage in the brains of animals exposed to the radiations for as long as six months.
The radiation impairedthe small branches on neurons that aid transfer electric signals to the nerve cells present in the body. This resulted in a loss in gaining knowledge and memory. The exposed animals executedpoorly on various behavioral tests that analyze intelligence, and they revealed constant, higher anxiety levels.
“Our experiments investigated animals to respond and recognize to novelty,” says Limoli. “Intelligent animals identify novelty. The affected species reveal stress and do not explore.”
The 340-days trip of astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station was an integral part of the NASA’s plan to research the effects of continuingspaceflight directly on the human body. But, travelling to Mars is a completely distinct problem than a work trip to the ISS or moon. NASA has been researching and trying to study the effects and risks of long-haul undertakingsto Mars, the red planet and even beyond that.
With a cost of around $9 million the project of Limoli intends to investigate the overall effects of cosmic radiation on humans. The astronauts cognition affects are also a component of the Human Research Program from NASA.
There was a similar study performed by a group last year that revealed similar results. The current findings are based on 12 and 24 weeks measurement and disclose that the long-term nature of brain harm from space travel. “The most surprising fact is how constant few of the changes to the structure of neurons are,” says Limoli. He further states that according to his group, these effects last for at least a year.
While the outcomes might not transform directly to individuals, he states that it simply implies that intense space travel could carry with it great risks for astronauts. “Space is an inexact science.” NASA is hunting for ways to alleviate radiation risks. Some of them include thicker shield, novel radiation blocking substances, magnetic fields, protective suits to recreate the natural shield of Earth.
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