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Space & Astronomy

Mars astronauts vulnerable to 'space brain'

By T.K. Randall
October 10, 2016 · Comment icon 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.

Source: | Comments (28)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #19 Posted by danielost 8 years ago
there's gravity on mars.  1/3 that of earth.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Habitat 8 years ago
I am aware of that, but they will be guinea-pigs as to the effects of low gravity, getting to Mars will likely be a whole lot easier than staying there.
Comment icon #21 Posted by danielost 8 years ago
there is no gravity on the space station yet they have few problems as long as they work out.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Habitat 8 years ago
They'll get "Mars brain" daniel, though I doubt anyone that would opt to spend their life there has much of a brain to lose.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Codenwarra 8 years ago
It should be no surprise that a lot of research has gone into this over the past 55 years.  But the pessimists seem to ignore it. From what I have seen of an actual scientific paper, not some condensed report in a newspaper, magazine or web page, the recommendations include a metal outer skin with a minimum mass per square centimetre, preferably not an aluminium alloy, with a layer inside of surprise - surprise, polyethylene or polystyrene. There are thousands of other materials that might be used inside or outside. Metal alloys of hundreds of different types, ceramics of hundreds of differ... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by seeder 8 years ago
  Can you imagine the weight contribution to a space craft....that.... just one inch of lead...would cause? Imagine covering something quite small, like your average car, in an inch of lead? Itd affect its performance and definitely its fuel needs
Comment icon #25 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard 7 years ago
Space brain?  Wouldn't that be a good thing? Guess I'm late to the discussion.
Comment icon #26 Posted by ROGER 7 years ago
I believe the BEAM Module on the ISS is being tested for shielding advancements are they not ?   
Comment icon #27 Posted by ChrLzs 7 years ago
Well, at least you *asked* instead of just making stuff up (like that silliness about cosmic radiation being unstoppable...).  I'm guessing you mean the Apollo astronauts who went to the Moon, and thus spent a few days in 'deep space' outside of Earth's magnetic field protection..  First up they were quite well protected for 'normal' radiation levels, eg background cosmic radiation and normal solar activity, but they could have been in a bit of trouble if there had been a major solar flare event, pointed at earth.  Such things are very rare, so it was a calculated risk, and there was a con... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by Scarlatti 7 years ago
Mars must be quite busy then, with all those Hillary Clinton supporters going back and forth.

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