Submitted to: Advances in Space Research
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/12/2006
Publication Date: 3/15/2007
Citation: Shukitt Hale, B., Casadesus, G., Carey, A.N., Rabin, B.M., Joseph, J.A. 2007. Exposure to 56Fe irradiation accelerates normal brain aging and produces deficits in spatial learning and memory. Advances in Space Research. 39:1087-1092.
Interpretive Summary: not needed
Technical Abstract: Previous studies have shown that radiation exposure, particularly to particles of high energy and charge (HZE particles), produces deficits in spatial learning and memory. These adverse behavioral effects are similar to those seen in aged animals. It is possible that these shared effects may be produced by the same mechanism; oxidative stress and inflammatory damage to the central nervous system caused by an increased release of reactive oxygen species is likely responsible for the deficits seen in aging and following irradiation. Therefore, dietary antioxidants, such as those found in fruits and vegetables, could be used as countermeasures to prevent the behavioral changes seen in these conditions. Both aged and irradiated rats display cognitive impairment in tests of spatial learning and memory such as the Morris water maze and the radial arm maze. These rats have decrements in the ability to build spatial representations of the environment and they utilize non-spatial strategies to solve tasks. Furthermore, they show a lack of spatial preference, due to a decline in the ability to process or retain place (position of a goal with reference to a "map" provided by the configuration of numerous cues in the environment) information. These declines in spatial memory occur in measures dependent on both reference and working memory, and in the flexibility to reset mental images. These results show that irradiation with high-energy particles produces age-like decrements in cognitive behavior that may impair the ability of astronauts to perform critical tasks during long-term space travel beyond the magnetosphere.