Mars-Bound Astronauts Could Suffer From "Space Brain" Dementia, Paranoia

First Posted: Oct 12, 2016 04:27 AM EDT

The United States is one of the countries that showed interest in exploring the "Red Planet". However, scientists have warned that astronauts who will join the Mars exploration could develop dementia and uncontrollable sense of fear, dubbed as "space brain", as they make their way to Mars.

According to Mirror, NASA is actively studying how to send humans to the "Red Planet", which is estimated to be 34 million miles away. Netherlands-based Mars One group plans to send people there in 2027, but US entrepreneur Elon Musk has also announced that he plans to send people to Mars by 2022; 5 years earlier than Mars One group.

However, Professor Charles Limoli, an expert in radiation oncology at University of California, Irvine, and colleagues found the effects of cosmic rays that would attack astronauts could cause a long-term brain damage when tested in rodents and their results pose a significant health threat such as cognitive impairment and dementia. The condition could also interfere with the "fear extinction" process, which helps people get over scary or stressful incidents so they can, for example, go swimming again after nearly drowning, he reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars," Professor Limoli said in a statement. "The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel - such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making," Fox News reported.

"The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel," the study states. According to a report by Independent, the study used rodents and just because something happens to the mice during the study doesn't necessarily mean that it will have the same results in humans. That's one of the reasons why the study uses the word "possibly" when presenting their findings.

Meanwhile, people ask why astronauts living on the International Space Station for years have not faced the same level of cosmic rays. it is due to the fact that the ISS orbits the Earth inside the planet's protective magnetosphere, which mostly protects people on the planet from cosmic radiation. But any trailblazer on a journey to Mars would have to compete with the harmful radiation of space.

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