Mars Travelers Could Suffer Radiation Brain Damage

Mice exposed to radiation akin to what astronauts to Mars would receive experienced cognitive impairment. Lee Billings reports. Outer space may look mostly empty, but it’s actually packed with cosmic radiation —gamma rays and charged particles produced by exploding stars, black holes and other violent astrophysical phenomena. Researchers mimicked cosmic-radiation exposure by briefly bombarding the brains of lab mice with high-energy particles. Six weeks later, the mice scored poorly on tests of learning and memory—they displayed less curiosity and more confusion than an unexposed control group. Analysis of their brains revealed inflammation and decreased numbers of dendrites, which transmit signals between nerves.