Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments

May 1, 2015
Credit: UC Irvine

What happens to an astronaut's brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It's besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles - much like those found in the that bombard during extended spaceflights - cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.

"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars," said Limoli, a professor of 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."

For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionized oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before being sent back to Limoli's Irvine lab.

The researchers found that exposure to these particles resulted in brain inflammation, which disrupted the transmission of signals among neurons. Imaging revealed how the brain's communication network was impaired through reductions in the structure of called dendrites and spines. Additional synaptic alterations in combination with the structural changes interfered with the capability of nerve cells to efficiently transmit electrochemical signals. Furthermore, these differences were parallel to decreased performance on behavioral tasks designed to test learning and memory.

Similar types of more severe cognitive dysfunction are common in brain cancer patients who have received various photon-based radiation treatments at much higher doses. In other research, Limoli studies the impact of chemotherapy and cranial irradiation on cognition.

The video will load shortly
This short animation overviews research by Charles Limoli and colleagues, who explored how exposure to space radiation impacts the brains of mice. Credit: AAAS/Carla Schaffer

While cognitive deficits in astronauts would take months to manifest, Limoli said, the time required for a mission to Mars is sufficient for such deficits to develop. People working for extended periods on the International Space Station do not face the same level of bombardment with galactic cosmic rays, as they are still within the protective magnetosphere of the Earth.

The irradiated particles that compose these galactic are mainly remnants of past supernova events.

Limoli's work is part of NASA's Human Research Program. Investigating how space radiation affects astronauts and learning ways to mitigate those effects are critical to further human exploration of space, and NASA needs to consider these risks as it plans for missions to Mars and beyond.

But what can be done to protect astronauts speeding off to the red planet?

As a partial solution, Limoli said, spacecraft could be designed to include areas of increased shielding, such as those used for rest and sleep. However, these highly energetic particles will traverse the ship nonetheless, he noted, "and there is really no escaping them."

Preventative treatments offer some hope. "We are working on pharmacologic strategies involving compounds that scavenge free radicals and protect neurotransmission," Limoli said. "But these remain to be optimized and are under development."

Explore further: Next solar maximum may be safest time for manned missions to Mars

More information: What happens to your brain on the way to Mars, Science Advances, advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1400256

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Shootist
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2015
"But what can be done to protect astronauts speeding off to the red planet?"


Build the ship in orbit and largely of ice.
johnhew
not rated yet May 01, 2015
ionized particles at least might be swayed by a magnetic force field of sorts. any inquisitive traveler would probably want to separate them by mass and analyze them anyway eh? titanium you say, maybe even bottle them in a Santa Claus machine for later nanoassembly like Dyson's buddy on the orion project had envisioned, right skippy-podna?
SuperThunderRocketJockey
not rated yet May 01, 2015
Here's an interesting conversation about water shielding.
http://space.stac...elding-i

Protoplasmix
not rated yet May 01, 2015
Seems like the less material (condensed matter) between you and a cosmic ray, the better. If someone offered to sell you an umbrella made of lead to protect you from the cosmic ray air showers we experience here on the ground, would you buy it? Not if you knew it would greatly add to the number of particles in the shower, since lead is so dense.

Better to deflect them, as is done routinely at the LHC with hadrons in the range of a few TeV.
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (6) May 02, 2015
Seems to be an affliction shared by astrophysicists.
JRi
not rated yet May 02, 2015
Ceramic superconductors probably would work as strong enough electric magnets to shield cosmic radiation, in space even without liq-N2 cooling. On the other hand, lead helmet would not necessarily be too cumbersome to wear in the absense of gravity, at least during sleeping.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (6) May 02, 2015
The universe is not designed to be explored by corruptible beings.
barakn
5 / 5 (11) May 02, 2015
The universe is not designed.

There, fixed it for you.
katesisco
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2015
When it happens on the surface of the Earth, we call it tameness. As in humans first tamed cattle 10,000 y ago. 41,000 y ago there was a complete magnetic reversal, shortly thereafter back again. Exposure of cosmic rays may have occurred. Radon may have been released. Toxic chemicals like carbon disulfide may have been spread from volcanic eruptions. Hydrogen suflide gas may have exuded from the deep Black Sea. Ozone may have laid on the surface of the Earth. Specific areas of the Earth may have experience a lessening of gravity. Volcanic ash may have been magnetically charged opposite Earth. http://www.atlaso...-village

Gigel
not rated yet May 02, 2015
Just use nuclear engines to get there faster.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) May 02, 2015
EM drive promises to cut transit to Mars to 70 days.
http://en.m.wikip.../EmDrive

-NASA has just succeeded in getting it to work in a vacuum.

VASIMR makes similar claims but would require a power source 200 times what current space-based nuclear reactors can provide. And so we need to hope that new power sources can be developed. Perhaps they are on the way with the ecat and the hydrino.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 02, 2015
But no amount of power would be able to generate fields strong enough to divert cosmic rays, which is what the article is about. Excess power would be able to propel much heavier ships with more shielding however, as with the Orion nuclear propulsion drive.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (3) May 02, 2015
On the other hand, lead helmet would not necessarily be too cumbersome to wear in the absense of gravity, at least during sleeping.
Yeah, check out the Scintillating Optical Fiber Calorimeter (SOFCAL). There's a reason they use lead plates in the design of the instrument, and it isn't to stop or absorb the cosmic ray.

Quoting from the link, "Like a bullet plunging through a wall, cosmic rays create a shower of debris when they intercept matter. Even the debris generates more showers until the original energy of the cosmic ray is scattered through the matter it hit, or the remains rifle through the other side and back into the cosmos."

So lead in the helmet not only won't stop the cosmic ray; rather, it will create a shower of particles that rifle through the astronaut's head, greatly amplifying the chances of damage to the brain... A cosmic ray isn't like the x-rays from a doctor/dentist.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (3) May 02, 2015
But no amount of power would be able to generate fields strong enough to divert cosmic rays, which is what the article is about.
Depends on the energy of the cosmic ray, right? The article mentions the benefit of earth's magnetosphere for astronauts aboard the ISS.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) May 02, 2015
On the other hand, lead helmet would not necessarily be too cumbersome to wear in the absense of gravity

It still has inertia. You wouldn't want to move wearing that thing.

Lead is also not a panacea in terms of radiation shielding. As Protoplasmix points out: secondary radiation can be more lethal than the primary one. Whereas you measure the radiation exposure (energy deposited in the body) in Gray the real relevant measure is the effective dose measured in Sievert. So a bad design in shielding can increase your effective dose while ostensibly decreasing the energy deposited,
Protoplasmix
not rated yet May 02, 2015
EM drive promises to cut transit to Mars to 70 days.
http://en.m.wikip.../EmDrive

-NASA has just succeeded in getting it to work in a vacuum.
Pretty cool, huh? Any guesses as to where the thrust is coming from? I think I know, and kinda doubt it's from virtual particles in the vacuum...
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 02, 2015
I'm staying home.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 02, 2015
Well, when I first heard of the EM drive I think the reported effect as temporary (i.e. there was some thrust but after a while that decreased to zero)...at the time I was thinking that it might be some induces positional rearrangement on the atomic level into a configuration forced by the resonance frequency. That would give some minute shift but would eventually saturate and drop to zero.

But the virtual hydrodynamic theory also sounds interesting. I wonder what they'll find out about this (but I'm not putting any money on this breaking any fundamental laws).
johnhew
5 / 5 (1) May 02, 2015
The universe is not designed to be explored by corruptible beings.

-viko_mx

Can we know this?
Protoplasmix
not rated yet May 02, 2015
But the virtual hydrodynamic theory also sounds interesting. I wonder what they'll find out about this (but I'm not putting any money on this breaking any fundamental laws).
It does (and me neither). My guess is that instead of virtual particles, the reaction mass is in the form of quasiparticles (plasmons on the interior surface), generated and accelerated by traveling waves (due to resonance and the asymmetry of the cavity) along the longitudinal axis.
Returners
1 / 5 (2) May 02, 2015
The universe is not designed to be explored by corruptible beings.


Negativity is opposed to faith. You are wrong about this.

gkam
5 / 5 (1) May 02, 2015
Faith is "believing" in something for which there is no proof.
viko_mx
1 / 5 (3) May 03, 2015
No negativism but realism. Pink optimism strongly impedes adequate assessment of reality.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 03, 2015
depends on the energy of the cosmic ray right?
Here is a paper on the subject
http://www.minima...rker.pdf

-Cosmic rays at the minimum energy level would require a field which would be lethal to humans. Apparently.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 03, 2015
Faith is "believing" in something for which there is no proof
Why do retards feel compelled to post something - anything - even though it is inane?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 03, 2015
theory also sounds interesting. I wonder what they'll find out about this (but I'm not putting any money on this breaking any fundamental laws
-Except if there are ones we aren't yet familiar with.

Funny - aa seems cautiously optimistic about EM drive, for which there is yet no scientific explanation, but still considers LENR voodoo pseudoscience even though NASA has looked at both. Why is one more attractive than the other to some people I wonder?

EM drive hasn't yet generated a peer-reviewed study an paper, nor does it have a commercial setup which has been operating successfully for half a year. The ecat has, and does.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (4) May 03, 2015
..at the time I was thinking ..
- AA

I wondered where the noise of rarely used reasoning was coming from. AA, you don't have any money and you've traded vital body parts for failed conjecture, so your bet (again) is just more worthless idle ignorance. Do some research before you shoot your mouth off.

AA, you'd be one of those types of people to condemn Giordano Bruno or Galileo.

Anyway, a few cosmic ray impacts never hurt anyone. Happens all the time!

gkam
not rated yet May 03, 2015
"Anyway, a few cosmic ray impacts never hurt anyone. Happens all the time!"
------------------------------------

Did you read the article?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (7) May 03, 2015
AA, you'd be one of those types of people to condemn Giordano Bruno or Galileo.

Nah, because they could show their work.

For the EM drive it's just way too early to jump to conclusions about how it works and whether it is an example of new physics. Even the guy who invented it can't say how it works. So the truly uninformed people (like you) already jumping to conclusions is more funny/sad than anything.

Conservation laws have a pretty good track record. Scepticism is always a good point to start from. (For the record: If the EM drive _could_ break conservation laws then that would be awesome)

you don't have any money and you've traded vital body parts for failed conjecture,

Did you mss the part where you lost - because you actually failed to test the bet? Denial must be such a fun state to live in. How's the meds?
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (3) May 03, 2015
-Cosmic rays at the minimum energy level would require a field which would be lethal to humans. Apparently.
Thanks, Ghost. I didn't mean to imply that it would be simple or easy, just that generating a field strong enough is straightforward these days.

Some points to consider from your link (and others) --
- a hybrid design (magnetic/electrostatic) was posed as a possible solution.
- I couldn't find any evaluations for a quadrupole (or sextupole) field, which should reduce the flux through a centrally situated habitat considerably.
- carbon fiber is diamagnetic, so a composite layer in the hull may also reduce the flux to acceptable levels.
Bongstar420
not rated yet May 03, 2015
-Cosmic rays at the minimum energy level would require a field which would be lethal to humans. Apparently.
Thanks, Ghost. I didn't mean to imply that it would be simple or easy, just that generating a field strong enough is straightforward these days.

Some points to consider from your link (and others) --
- a hybrid design (magnetic/electrostatic) was posed as a possible solution.
- I couldn't find any evaluations for a quadrupole (or sextupole) field, which should reduce the flux through a centrally situated habitat considerably.
- carbon fiber is diamagnetic, so a composite layer in the hull may also reduce the flux to acceptable levels.


Wouldn't a few feet of water do? Why does it need to be a space ship; why not a space station with centrifugal artificial gravity?
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2015
Wouldn't a few feet of water do?
Not for a cosmic ray. For example and to illustrate, the MINOS experiment is located half a mile underground in an old iron mine. Even that deep, they detect a muon from a cosmic ray air shower every couple of seconds. They have a live event viewer, you can watch it happen: http://farweb.min...ent.html Click the MINOS link at the top of that page to learn more about the experiment.
Happens all the time!
Yeah it does :)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2015
Why does it need to be a space ship; why not a space station with centrifugal artificial gravity?


Aside from what Protoplasmix posted... Putting stuff into orbit for construction takes a lot of money. Every kg counts. Something like the ISS is too small and too flimsy for rotational gravity (much less thick shielding), and if you go to the history of how much money, how much time and how many launches it took to put it together you will quickly notice that building the kinds of 'space stations' you envision is still quite a ways beyond us.

The problem would be compunded by the need for humongously more fuel (as you need to move all that extra mass...and the extra masss of the extra fuel... )

Real life ain't like Hollywood.
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2015
The universe is not designed to be explored by corruptible beings.

-viko_mx

Can we know this?


Only one way to find out!
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2015
For the EM drive it's just way too early to jump to conclusions about how it works and whether it is an example of new physics. Even the guy who invented it can't say how it works. So the truly uninformed people (like you) already jumping to conclusions is more funny/sad than anything
Ha. I could use this very paragraph, substituting ecat for EM drive, and use it the next time aa dismisses LENR as quackery.

I wonder if aa will ever realize how vulnerable he is to aesthetic subjectivity?

Sad that he has me turned off as he thus has no means with which to defend himself. No matter. The community will judge.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) May 04, 2015
NASA has even gone so far as to offer support for the Widom-Larsen theory of LENR
http://youtu.be/zGZUonhqj8g
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2015
"Sad that he has me turned off as he thus has no means with which to defend himself. No matter. The community will judge."
-----------------------------------------------

Defend himself against otto-wiki??

He's a sniper shooting with blanks.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (2) May 04, 2015
NASA has even gone so far as to offer support for the Widom-Larsen theory of LENR
http://youtu.be/zGZUonhqj8g

And there are 5 ea. ~3-hour videos on YouTube covering the lectures for the MIT Cold Fusion / LENR Independent Activities Project 2014, well worth the time it takes to watch them all. One video for each day from Jan. 27-31, 2014. Here's a link to the first one: https://www.youtu...Zh79zliI
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) May 04, 2015
"Sad that he has me turned off as he thus has no means with which to defend himself. No matter. The community will judge."
-----------------------------------------------

Defend himself against otto-wiki??

Don't bother. For some reason otto's trying to get some sort of pat on the head from me. It's like these small dogs that hump your leg. Sorta pathetic.

As for the "judgement of the community": Science ain't a popularity contest (but if it were...well...than despite his sockpuppet-army-ragevoting things are pretty clear ;-) )
gkam
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2015
Lectures, not proofs?

I want to see it work.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 04, 2015
Don't bother. For some reason otto's trying to get some sort of pat on the head from me. It's like these small dogs that hump your leg. Sorta pathetic
Im just here to keep you clean. Its my job.

But as far as pathetic goes, you buttrubbing - uh, how you say - arschkriechen? -with gkam is indeed... pathetic.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2015
Real world folk need proof, not the efforts of salesmanship.

otto has a real problem with trusting the wrong people.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2015
I tend to trust people who don't compulsively double the number and strength of earthquakes in his hometown.

I tend to trust people who would claim that compulsory voting is always ruinous to the countries that enact it, without checking first to see that Australia and Brazil both have it.

Or that overhead power lines would be necessary to connect offshore power plants to shore.

I tend to trust people who have some respect for the facts and aren't too lazy or self-absorbed to look them up, or who don't spend an inordinate amount of time running my butt.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet May 05, 2015
Spellcheck strikes again-
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
We had another small one last night. otto does not trust those who have experience, since he has no idea what that means.

Nobody cares what a sniper with a pseudonym thinks. I am real, he is just another "game" player, as he admitted.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (2) May 05, 2015
Lectures, not proofs?

I want to see it work
The lectures present the reproducible "proofs" with experimental data including the public demonstration showing it working.
Real world folk need proof, not the efforts of salesmanship.
Who do people trust more, scientists presenting reproducible science to the public for free, or a dude offering nothing but ad hominem?
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
I trust me watching the demonstration asking questions. Nothing less.

I am 70 years old, and have seen all the games and heard all the promises.

Give me the setup and we will see.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2015
Nobody cares what a sniper with a pseudonym thinks. I am real, he is just another "game" player, as he admitted
99% of the people who post here use pseudonyms. And you've shown by lying and bullshitting to all of us, how little respect you have for anyone here.

So why'd you lie about the earthquakes George? Your 'experience' teach you that you could get away with it? This is not sniping - this is exposing an abuser for what he is.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
Any excuse to hide, . . for the cowards.

otto, you MUST have some kind of life, some kind of education or experience, yet you do not know a civil engineer from a nuclear specialist, a PEM cell from solid oxide, a krytron from a tamper, BWR from PWR, or one power waveform from another.

So, you just keep on with the personal attacks, the only things at which you can try to succeed.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2015
I know the difference between a lying bullshit artist like yourself from a decent respectable poster. All it takes is to check what you say, against the available facts.

And you have proven without doubt that you are a lying, flooding, bullshitter.

Facts don't lie dude. You_do.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
Sorry, otto. Did you look me up? Let's see, you tried to deny I was in the Air Force, then at Edwards, then Airman of the Month for the Air Force Flight Test Center, then that I was part of the group which set up the first Electronic Battlefield, then, that I was not a Senior Engineer for PG&E, then, that I did not know about the BWRs I tested, then, more and more, until you are left screaming in the middle of the playground.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
otto, did you look up my NASA report, the one with my name on it?

How about the stuff about Power Quality? Did you see who the power companies used to train their own engineers?

Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
I trust me watching the demonstration asking questions. Nothing less.
It's evident you've not watched the lectures, nor checked to see if any questions you might have were already asked and addressed therein.

I am 70 years old, and have seen all the games and heard all the promises.
Both statements indicative of a closed and atrophied mind.

Give me the setup and we will see.
The various setups for the series of "phusors" and "nanors" are given in the lectures. You're not asking questions, just making willfully ignorant demands.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
No, I want to see proof.

So far, you have N-Rays. Look them up.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (2) May 05, 2015
So far, you have N-Rays.
Quantified infrared radiation isn't 'N-rays'. Try harder, gkam...
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2015
I would love for you to be correct, but I have seen too many great ideas fizzle out.

Good luck.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2015
Sorry, otto. Did you look me up? Let's see, you tried to deny I was in the Air Force, then at Edwards, then Airman of the Month for the Air Force Flight Test Center, then that I was part of the group which set up the first Electronic Battlefield, then, that I was not a Senior Engineer for PG&E, then, that I did not know about the BWRs I tested
I know George. You are the lying bullshit artist who thinks those claims give you the right to double the number and strength of earthquakes just to impress people. Or who would tack 'high energy' onto alpha radiation, just to impress people. Or to claim outrageous nonsense about fallout being the MAIN cause of lung cancer when it's not even on the list. Etcetcetcetc.

No, it is what you post that has convinced people here that you are a lying, flooding, bullshitter. Doesn't matter what you've done.

WHY is it you don't understand this?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2015
otto, did you look up my NASA report, the one with my name on it?
This is what bonafide NASA experts look like
https://www.youtu...dF7YlX3o

-And we can seek them out on the internet for reliable answers to our questions. We dont have to rely on wetbrains like yourself with dubious claims of 'experience' who want us to believe that HIGH ENERGY alpha cant penetrate skin (covered this lecture), that radiation cannot kill within minutes, that plutonium is raining down on idaho, that plutonium is any more dangerous than any other alpha emitter, or that fallout is the MAIN cause of lung cancer.

No amount of experience will make that kind of bullshit true. And trying to claim that it can is a JOKE.

Youre a JOKE george.
gkam
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2015
Got you, otto, or whoever you really are.

Show me one of YOUR reports, otto.

Show me.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 06, 2015
Got you, otto, or whoever you really are.

Show me one of YOUR reports, otto.

Show me.
Im not an expert and I would never pretend to be one, like you do.

I just know how to find facts generated by real experts which can be used to expose lying phonies like yourself, who think that amateur theses written 40 years ago for some ancillary MS degree can be used as evidence for expertise.

Dont you realize just how STUPID this makes you look?

Youre a JOKE george.

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