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The Role of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation on Synaptic Functions after Exposure to Space Radiation (NNX14AC94G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Radiation health
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Mus musculus Species: Mouse

This work focused on studying changes in synaptic functions associated with the development of cognitive dysfunction after low doses of space irradiation and the relative role of oxidative stress and inflammation. Irradiation of the central nervous system (CNS) can significantly affect the hippocampus, a structure critical for cognitive function. Activity-dependent modification of synapses underlies memory formation and involves changes in the dendritic arbors. The maintenance of the dendritic system, including spine density, dendritic arbors, BDNF and plasticity-related protein expression are essential to maintain proper synaptic functions. The dendritic system connects the neuronal network, mediates functional integration of newborn neurons, and controls synaptic functions; yet it is sensitive to increased oxidative stress and inflammation.

The purpose of this study was to determine how space-relevant doses of radiation affect dendritic maintenance as it pertains to synaptic functions and memory. Investigators hypothesized that space radiation, even at low doses, impairs synaptic functions with negative consequences for cognition and that these effects are mediated by oxidative stress and inflammation.

This study had the following specific aims:

  1. Quantitatively determine the short and long term effects of irradiation with protons (150 MeV/n; 0.15, 0.5, 0.9 Gy), 56Fe (600 MeV/n; 0.15, 0.4 Gy), and 16O (600 MeV/n; 0.15, 0.4 Gy) on synaptic functions and the role of oxidative stress and inflammation.
  2. Determine if altered levels of extracellularly generated oxygen free radicals play a prominent role in synaptic function following low doses irradiation with protons, 56Fe and 16O.

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Radiation effects

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
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Cognitive function
Dendritic complexity
Spine density

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

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Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Eric R. Gallagher
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2013 Space Radiobiology N