It is believed that ionizing radiation emanating from interplanetary space negatively affects living organisms, and there is no effective protection against it yet. Therefore, radiation is an obstacle to further space missions involving humans. On Earth, a dense atmosphere and magnetosphere protect us from cosmic radiation.
Human orbital flights do not simulate the radiation environment of interplanetary space, therefore, in the laboratory they create artificial conditions close to space, and experiments are performed mainly on rodents. Previously, scientists have already observed that irradiated rodents demonstrate success in cognitive tests and are better oriented in space than their relatives from the control group. However, the mechanism of this phenomenon remained unexplored.
In the experiment, rats were irradiated as if they spent 860 days in orbit (for comparison, a one-way flight to Mars would take about 180 days). The control group of rodents was kept under the same conditions, fed the same way, but not exposed to radiation. Then the animals were again divided into subgroups and conducted a series of cognitive tests with them, after which brain samples were studied.
After irradiation, young rats became more anxious, but this effect was leveled in mature individuals. Rats from the experimental group passed tests better and were oriented in space than their counterparts.