Neurophysiologists from three leading Russian research centres have concluded extensive research on the effects of low-dose neutron and y-ray radiation on the brains of lab mice, finding that the radiation did not impact the rodents' intellectual capabilities, but did temporarily hinder the formation of new cells in their brains' memory centres.
According to the findings, which have been published in the NeuroReport academic journal, irradiated and non-irradiated mice "showed no differences in terms of exploratory behaviour or anxiety 6 weeks after the irradiation," with their "ability to form hippocampus-dependent memory…also unaffected."
Speaking to the RIA Novosti news agency, Alexander Lazutkin, a senior research scientist at the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology (MIPT) and co-author of the study, said that the new research was one of just a handful of studies on the effects of neutron radiation on neurogenesis.
"We are not asserting that the behaviour and memory of irradiated mice remained completely unaffected. The data on other types of radiation suggests that, despite the apparent preservation of memories, its individual fine components may suffer. And that means that our work is just the beginning of this kind of research," the academic explained.
Along with MIPT researchers, the study involved researchers from the Anokhin Research Institute and the Kurchatov Institute.
According to the Russian Science Foundation, the new research by Lazutkin and his colleagues has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms' interactions with cosmic rays.
Scientists from around the world have been actively studying the effects of long periods in space on the human body for decades, with studies conducted on board the International Space Station, various spacecraft, and scientific satellites, in a bid to discover the kinds of threats to Earth-based life amid ambitious plans to established Martian colonies and set up orbiting space stations on places like the Moon.
These space pioneers' efforts, along with experimentation on other forms of life, have allowed scientists to confirm, for example, that long periods of weightlessness can weaken the immune system and accelerate the aging of bone marrow, while the prolonged bombardment of the brain by cosmic rays has been thought to have a negative impact on IQ, although the latter claims have been challenged by contradictory findings. The research conducted by Lazutkin and his fellow scientists has been aimed at moving toward a scientific consensus on the subject.