Future long-duration space missions will involve travel outside of the Earth's magnetosphere, which will result in increased radiation exposure for astronauts. Exposure could permanently damage multiple tissues, including the central nervous system (CNS), and result in deleterious effects on cognition and behavior during and beyond the mission. Here, we assessed the effects of whole-body oxygen ion (16O; 1,000 MeV/n) exposure (5 or 25 cGy) on social odor recognition memory in male Long-Evans rats at one and six months after exposure. At one month postirradiation, all rats displayed a preference for a novel 1 (N1) social odor experienced during the habituation phase. When assessed for recognition memory 24 h later, only sham-irradiated rats spent more time exploring a second novel social odor (novel 2, N2), whereas rats irradiated with 5 or 25 cGy 16O ions did not show a preference for the N2 odor compared to the N1 odor experienced 24 h earlier, thus displaying a memory deficit for recall of the social odor encountered 24 h prior. At six months postirradiation, rats exposed to 25 cGy showed persistent deficits in 24 h recognition memory, while the 5 cGy-exposed rats did not. Thus, 24 h recognition memory was apparently recovered at six months postirradiation for the low, but not the higher, dose of 16O ions. Both irradiated groups displayed similar numbers of Ki67 cells, a marker of cell proliferation, in the subventricular zone. These results further demonstrate that space-relevant 16O ion exposure has deleterious effects on the CNS, which are related to both radiation dose and time after exposure.
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Vol. 189 • No. 3