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Title: Performance deficit produced by partial body exposures to space radiation

item RABIN, BERNARD - University Of Maryland
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara
item CARRIHILL-KNOLL, KIRSTY - University Of Maryland
item GOMES, STACEY - University Of Cincinnati
item HEROUX, NICHOLAS - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Society for Neuroscience Abstracts and Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/25/2013
Publication Date: 11/9/2013
Citation: Rabin, B.M., Shukitt Hale, B., Carrihill-Knoll, K.L., Gomes, S., Heroux, N. 2013. Performance deficit produced by partial body exposures to space radiation. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts and Proceedings. 2013. Program #445.06.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: On exploratory class missions to other planets, astronauts will be exposed to types of radiation (particles of high energy and charge [HZE particles]) that are not experienced in low earth orbit, where the space shuttle operates. Previous research has shown that exposure to HZE particles can affect cognitive performance. The total dose of radiation to which an astronaut will be exposed (20-30 cGy) will, most likely, be distributed over the entire body. Since cognitive performance depends upon the integrity of the brain, the contribution of body dose, if any, remains to be established. To evaluate the possible contribution of body exposures to a radiation-induced performance decrement, rats were exposed to 16O (1000 MeV/n; 1, 5, 10, 25 cGy) particles at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. There were three exposure conditions: head-only, body-only and whole body. Tungsten bricks were used to shield either the head or the body, as required; the bricks were removed for whole body exposures. Non-irradiated control rats (0 cGy) were taken to the NSRL, but not exposed. Nominal dose rates were between 1 and 10 cGy/min, depending upon the total dose. The animals were shipped to UMBC for testing various aspects of cognitive performance: operant responding on an ascending fixed-ratio schedule, object recognition memory, spatial memory and elevated plus-maze performance. The results indicated that exposure of the body, either alone or in combination with the exposure of the head, could influence the responsiveness of the organism to the disruptive effects of exposure to HZE particles on cognitive performance, depending upon the specific task. The influence of irradiating the body on the responsiveness of the organism to the disruptive effects of exposure to HZE particles on neurocognitive performance was observed in two ways: first, as a direct effect of body-only exposure on cognitive performance, and second, as an interaction between head and body exposures seen with whole body exposures. These results indicate that body-only exposures have the potential to produce effects that can influence cognitive performance which is mediated by the brain. As such, astronauts may be subject to increased risk of deficits in cognitive performance during exploratory class missions.