Science Times: Cognitive Dysfunction of Astronomical Proportions

Advances in technology and science have made interplanetary space travel no longer a concept of science fiction. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is planning a manned mission to Mars as early as the year 2030. This 7-mo journey through weightlessness and solar radiation will have health implications that have never been encountered before. Careful thought and anticipation of the deleterious effects on the health of the voyagers will need to be carefully assessed to ensure the overall health and security of the mission. Despite advances in the feasibility of extended space voyages, the health implications of long-term space exposure are still being understood.

One such health concern specifically focuses on cognition. Previous studies have evaluated the deleterious effects of proton radiation exposure on mice, demonstrating a decline in task-based cognitive performances. A recent study by Lee et al1 focused on the specific neural networks that were influenced by space-relevant doses of proton beam radiation. Mice were exposed to space-relevant doses of proton radiation or sham treatment. After 5 to 9 wk, hippocampal slices were taken and electrophysiologic performance tests were carried out to evaluate the synaptic transmission of GABAergic interneurons on pyramidal cells. Specifically, the 2 main GABAergic interneurons were cholecystokinin and cannabinoid type 1 receptor-expressing, regular-spiking basket cells (CB1BC) and the parvalbumin-expressing, fast-spiking interneurons (PVINs). This study had very fascinating findings.

To read more of these findings, click here.