Indexed on: 19 Nov '15Published on: 19 Nov '15Published in: Radiation research
A unique feature of the space radiation environment is the presence of high-energy charged particles, which can be significantly hazardous to space flight crews who are exposed during a mission. Health risks associated with high-LET radiation exposure include cognitive injury. The pathogenesis of this injury is unknown but may involve modifications to dendritic structure and/or alterations in dendritic spine density and morphology. In this study, 24 two-month-old C57BL6/J male mice were either whole-body irradiated with 0.5 Gy (56)Fe (600 MeV/n; n = 12) or sham irradiated (n = 12). Three months postirradiation animals were tested for locomotor activity and habituation. After behavioral testing, animals were euthanized and the brains were flash frozen. Compared to sham-irradiated mice, irradiated mice moved less when first introduced to the environment, although they did recognize the environment when re-exposed to it one day later. Exposure to (56)Fe radiation significantly compromised the dendritic architecture and reduced spine density throughout the hippocampal tri-synaptic network. To our knowledge, these data represents the first reported evidence that high-LET radiation has deleterious effects on mature neurons associated with hippocampal learning and memory.