Cosmic radiation could trigger Alzheimer's in astronauts: Study

Space travel may have harmful effects on astronauts' brains as exposure to galactic cosmic radiation could trigger Alzheimer's, reports citing a new study said.

With the race for space tourism hotting up, new obstacles to inter-galactic travel have come to the fore as research for the first time showed that radiation exposure in space could lead to cognitive problems, the report said.

People on earth are generally protected against cosmic radiation by the earth's magnetic field but once astronauts left orbit they were exposed to constant shower of various radioactive particles, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

According to senior author of the study, professor Kerry O'Banion from the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC) Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, galactic cosmic radiation posed a significant threat to future astronauts. The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer had long been recognized, he added.

The study, however, showed for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Studies on mice have shown that after they were exposed to various doses of radiation, including levels comparable to what astronauts would experience during a mission to Mars, they were far more likely to fail certain tasks - suggesting neurological impairment.