Long space voyages may trigger dementia-like symptoms in astronauts, according to a recent study:
In order to better understand what effect that highly energetic charged particles might have on a body, the researchers exposed rodents to charged particle irradiation. These particles are much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights.
The researchers found that exposure to these particles resulted in brain inflammation. This disrupted the transmission of signals among neurons. In addition, imaging revealed that the brain’s communication network was impaired through reductions in the structure of nerve cells 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.
“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” said Charles Limoli, one of the researchers, in a news release. “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.”
There’s no use in settling other planets if we arrive there unable to even care for ourselves.