It will be nice to fly people to and fro Mars but recent research suggested that the level of radiation experienced in deep space can have damaging effect on human brains as indicated by experiments conducted on mice.
In an experiment to investigate the effect of radiation on brain functions, labs animals at the University of California, Irvine, were subjected to highly energetic particles typically found in deep space and something astronauts will be subjected to during their transits to Mars. After exposure to highly energtic particles, animals start displaying stymptoms of central nervous system damages and cognitive impairments.
“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” said lead author Charles Limoli, professor of radiation oncology in UCI’s School of Medicine.
“Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”
Due to harmful effects of space radiation, astranauts works in 6 months shift up at the International Space Station. And recently, in March this year, US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will begin their year long stay at International Space Station to determine the effects of space radiation on their bodies. And that, however would not be sufficient to gauge the true damage of space radiation as the International Space Stations are within the protective magnetosphere of the earth. The amount of radiation that astranauts at International Space stations will experience is at a small fraction of what astronauts will experience during their transit to Mars.
In the most recent studies on the effect of radiation on biological tissues, rodents at NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory were subjected to radiation for 6 weeks. The radiation were sufficient to ionize oxygen and titanium within these rodent’s brain. These ionized metal subsequently disrupted transmissions of signals among neurons.
Additionally, higher energetic particles were able to penetrate the tissues of rodents and these high energy particles severed dendritic branches as they collided with them. Severed dendritic branches are often observed in neuro diseases like Alzheimer, suggesting that exposure to high energy particles and radiation can quicken the progress of neuro diseases in astronauts.
Irridated mice were then subjected to various test to gauge their cognitive capabilities. The irridated mice showed a decrease in cognitive capabilities, more easily confused, lacked curiousity and generally less active than normal mice. Such decrease in cognitve capabilties is definitely undesirable in space faring astronauts as it may impair their abilities to respond to unexpected situation, ability to reason spatially and to recall information.
Mental dedegration will develop in human within months of exposure to radiation and high energy particles. Which is little compared to the years astronauts will need to reach mars.