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Central Nervous System Responses to Simulated Galactic Cosmic Rays


In preparation for lunar and Mars missions it is essential to consider the challenges to human health that are posed by long-duration deep space habitation via multiple stressors, including ionizing radiation, gravitational changes during flight and in orbit, other aspects of the space environment such as high level of carbon dioxide, and psychological stress from confined environment and social isolation. It remains unclear how these stressors individually or in combination impact the central nervous system (CNS), presenting potential obstacles for astronauts engaged in deep space travel. Although human spaceflight research only within the last decade has started to include the effects of radiation transmitted by galactic cosmic rays to the CNS, radiation is currently considered to be one of the main stressors for prolonged spaceflight and deep space exploration. Here we will review the current knowledge of CNS damage caused by simulated space radiation with an emphasis on neuronal and glial responses along with cognitive functions. Furthermore, we will present novel experimental approaches to integrate the knowledge into more comprehensive studies, including multiple stressors at once and potential translation to human functions. Finally, we will discuss the need for developing biomarkers as predictors for cognitive decline and therapeutic countermeasures to prevent CNS damage and the loss of cognitive abilities.

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