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Radiat Res. 2000 Jul;154(1):28-33.

Spatial learning and memory deficits induced by exposure to iron-56-particle radiation.

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USDA-ARS, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.
U MD, Baltimore


It has previously been shown that exposing rats to particles of high energy and charge (HZE) disrupts the functioning of the dopaminergic system and behaviors mediated by this system, such as motor performance and an amphetamine-induced conditioned taste aversion; these adverse behavioral and neuronal effects are similar to those seen in aged animals. Because cognition declines with age, spatial learning and memory were assessed in the Morris water maze 1 month after whole-body irradiation with 1.5 Gy of 1 GeV/nucleon high-energy (56)Fe particles, to test the cognitive behavioral consequences of radiation exposure. Irradiated rats demonstrated cognitive impairment compared to the control group as seen in their increased latencies to find the hidden platform, particularly on the reversal day when the platform was moved to the opposite quadrant. Also, the irradiated group used nonspatial strategies during the probe trials (swim with no platform), i.e. less time spent in the platform quadrant, fewer crossings of and less time spent in the previous platform location, and longer latencies to the previous platform location. These findings are similar to those seen in aged rats, suggesting that an increased release of reactive oxygen species may be responsible for the induction of radiation- and age-related cognitive deficits. If these decrements in behavior also occur in humans, they may impair the ability of astronauts to perform critical tasks during long-term space travel beyond the magnetosphere.

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