O'Banion's team has been working with NASA for over 8 years on how radiation effects the central nervous system, complementing the space agency's 25 years of study into how space can be detrimental to astronauts' health.
Does this mean curtains for our interplanetary dreams? Will robots - with silicon brains and not the "squishy" brains we humans are hindered by - forever remain our space exploration emissaries? Hopefully not, but it will certainly motivate novel shielding developments and aid crew selection, possibly creating the need for screening processes that will identify individuals with a predisposition to developing the disease.
"These findings clearly suggest that exposure to radiation in space has the potential to accelerate the development of Alzheimer's disease," said O'Banion. "This is yet another factor that NASA, which is clearly concerned about the health risks to its astronauts, will need to take into account as it plans future missions."
Source: University of Rochester
Image: Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) becomes disoriented in the mind-bending "Beyond the Infinite" scene in the classic Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, the realities of space travel could be more mind-damaging than mind-bending. Credit: MGM