When flying to Mars, make sure to monitor and enhance brain function (radiation exposure can hurt performance)



Could a trip to Mars fry astro­nauts’ brains? (The Wash­ing­ton Post):

Brain dam­age. Mem­o­ry dete­ri­o­ra­tion. Intel­li­gence loss. This could be your brain on a trip to Mars…The find­ing, pub­lished in the open-source jour­nal Sci­ence Advances this month, could throw a wrench in the many ambi­tious mis­sions aimed at send­ing humans to Earth’s near­est neigh­bor­ing planet…

…a decline in brain func­tion is espe­cial­ly prob­lem­at­ic for any­one trav­el­ing to Mars, since the 100 mil­lion or so miles a mes­sage must trav­el to reach Earth caus­es a 20-minute delay in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Astro­nauts need to be able to fig­ure things out quick­ly and on their own…

But aero­space engi­neer Robert Zubrin, pres­i­dent of the Mars Soci­ety and an advis­er to Mars One, says that the study’s find­ings have been blown way out of pro­por­tion. Rather than admin­is­ter small amounts of radi­a­tion slow­ly over the course of many months, the researchers in the mouse study bom­bard­ed their sub­jects with 30 months’ worth of radi­a­tion in the course of about 30 seconds.”

Limoli isn’t call­ing his find­ing a “show stop­per” either, he told Sci­ence mag­a­zine. It’s just “some­thing NASA needs to con­sid­er,” he said.”

Study: What hap­pens to your brain on the way to Mars (Sci­ence Advances)

  • Abstract: As NASA pre­pares for the first manned space­flight to Mars, ques­tions have sur­faced con­cern­ing the poten­tial for increased risks asso­ci­at­ed with expo­sure to the spec­trum of high­ly ener­getic nuclei that com­prise galac­tic cos­mic rays. Ani­mal mod­els have revealed an unex­pect­ed sen­si­tiv­i­ty of mature neu­rons in the brain to charged par­ti­cles found in space. Astro­naut auton­o­my dur­ing long-term space trav­el is par­tic­u­lar­ly crit­i­cal as is the need to prop­er­ly man­age planned and unan­tic­i­pat­ed events, activ­i­ties that could be com­pro­mised by accu­mu­lat­ing par­ti­cle tra­ver­sals through the brain. Using mice sub­ject­ed to space-rel­e­vant flu­ences of charged par­ti­cles, we show sig­nif­i­cant cor­ti­cal- and hip­pocam­pal-based per­for­mance decre­ments 6 weeks after acute expo­sure. Ani­mals man­i­fest­ing cog­ni­tive decre­ments exhib­it­ed marked and per­sis­tent radi­a­tion-induced reduc­tions in den­drit­ic com­plex­i­ty and spine den­si­ty along medi­al pre­frontal cor­ti­cal neu­rons known to medi­ate neu­ro­trans­mis­sion specif­i­cal­ly inter­ro­gat­ed by our behav­ioral tasks. Sig­nif­i­cant increas­es in post­sy­nap­tic den­si­ty pro­tein 95 (PSD-95) revealed major radi­a­tion-induced alter­ations in synap­tic integri­ty. Impaired behav­ioral per­for­mance of indi­vid­ual ani­mals cor­re­lat­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly with reduced spine den­si­ty and trend­ed with increased synap­tic punc­ta, there­by pro­vid­ing quan­ti­ta­tive mea­sures of risk for devel­op­ing cog­ni­tive decre­ments. Our data indi­cate an unex­pect­ed and unique sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem to space radi­a­tion expo­sure, and argue that the under­ly­ing radi­a­tion sen­si­tiv­i­ty of del­i­cate neu­ronal struc­ture may well pre­dis­pose astro­nauts to unin­tend­ed mis­sion-crit­i­cal per­for­mance decre­ments and/or longer-term neu­rocog­ni­tive sequelae.

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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