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Mars-Bound Astronauts May Suffer from "Space Brain" Dementia, Paranoia Due to Cosmic Rays

Oct 11, 2016 05:22 AM EDT
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Cosmic rays may damage brains and the cognitive system of astronauts.
(Photo : Getty Images / Handout)

Beware! Mars explorations may fry astronauts' brains.  Everyone knows the dangers of cosmic rays and radiation to humans and a new study presented the perils of Martian explorations. Apparently, cosmic rays may have the capability to "fry" the brains of space crew causing paranoia and dementia called as the "space brain" phenomenon.  

A new study from the University of California, published in the journal Scientific Reports, presented the potential effect of exposure to cosmic rays and radiation. This phenomenon is called "Space Brain" and can cause major disturbances to a human's cognitive system including dementia, paranoia, depression and anxiety.

The findings were based on a study using mice exposed to radiation. The rodents were exposed to highly charged particles and they exhibited the said effects in the cognitive area. The brain defects are attributed to damaged neurons, which was observed during the six months of experimentation. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports, according to Wired.

This is also the reason why scientists were asking if Martian astronauts will still be able to remember much of the mission if they were able to go to the red planet and back to Earth. Memory loss and other major brain damage are expected results from cosmic rays exposure.

Space brain may also disorient astronauts causing them to make confused decisions that can also put the mission in danger. The study also concurs with an older study that says cosmic rays exposure can cause temporary and shorter brain defects.

"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars," Dr. Charles Limoli, an oncology professor said in an interview. "Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel -- such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making."

Scientists that conducted the study also added that some effect might develop later in life. This means scientists and engineers need to find a way to protect astronauts from fatal cosmic rays in order for the manned mission to Mars to succeed. This is in addition to building habitation that is vital in prolonging the journey and to finding ways to grow food on the planet.


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