Space & Astronomy
Mars astronauts vulnerable to 'space brain'
By T.K. Randall
October 10, 2016 · 28 comments
Space can be extremely hazardous to human health. Image Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings
Astronauts embarking on missions in to deep space could be at an increased risk of developing dementia.
As if deadly radiation, limited supplies and long periods of isolation weren't enough of a problem for the first astronauts heading to Mars, researchers at the University of California in Irvine have now identified another potential side-effect of long-haul space travel - a condition they call 'space brain'.
According to the research, exposure to cosmic rays during a space mission could impair cognition on a permanent basis, leading to memory loss, anxiety, depression and dementia.
"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two to three-year round trip to Mars," said Professor Charles Limoli. "The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts."
"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."
"Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."
Health concerns such as these could prove to be a major stumbling block if a solution cannot be found before the first manned mission to Mars is undertaken within the next few decades.
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