Travel to Mars might not be the best thing for the human mind, new study finds

Research conducted on male mice for six months found they faced issues with memory, learning and anxiety.


A study has found that going to Mars will not bode well for human beings and their brains.

The study was conducted in a new neutron irradiation facility to simulate cosmic radiation. Male mice were bombarded with a low dose of radiation for six months. After that period of time, the researchers found that signalling in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus was impaired by the radiation. This affected their memory and learning abilities. They also noticed that the mice were anxious, which meant that the amygdala was affected.

Charles Limoli, a radiation oncologist from the University of California told CNN, “These charged particles are very dangerous. The reason is, they are very energetic and fully ionized, and when they travel through the body, they produce this type of damage that the cells and tissues of your body find very difficult to recover from.”

Travel to Mars might not be the best thing for the human mind, new study finds

Travel to Mars exposes human beings to more intense radiation than that on the ISS.

The researchers believe that one in five astronauts would face anxiety. One in three would have to deal with memory issues and all of them would struggle to make decisions, which is important when you're off to settle on another planet.

Limoli said that the best of shields can only offer limited protection from the radiation that would come on the journey to Mars.

The famous NASA twin study, conducted on twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, also studied the effects of space on the human body. They sent Scott to the ISS for one year. Mark, his twin remained on earth. Being twins, they were genetically very similar, allowing scientists unprecedented access to a control subject for studying the effects of long-term space travel.

Scott Kelly's body was found to have developed several issues related to muscle and bone strength, not to mention damage to cells. However, they found that within six months, Scott’s body returned to normal and there were no long-term side effects. This test was limited to the long-term effects of low gravity environments.

But it is not the same as going to Mars. The astronauts that live on the ISS aren’t faced with the same level of radiation as those that would go into deep space. The ISS is protected because it exists in low Earth orbit (LEO).

There is a shield protecting the Earth from high energy particles (radiation) in space. This natural, impenetrable barrier appears to be extremely effective. It's based on a phenomenon termed as 'plasmaspheric hiss', which is a low-frequency electromagnetic wave absorbs high-energy particles. This phenomenon sounds like a hiss, hence the term.

This barrier is extremely rigid and nigh impenetrable when it comes to high-energy electrons, which struggle to come closer than 11,000 km to the Earth's surface.

The findings from this study were published in the journal eNeuro.