Daily Mail: Earth’s magnetic field prevents large amounts of radiation from reaching the planet’s surface. However, cosmic radiation may pose a significant health risk for astronauts during interplanetary travel. Kerry O’Banion from the University of Rochester Medical Center and colleagues examined the effects on the brains of mice of a particular type of space radiation called high-mass, high-charged particles. Using particle accelerators at NASA’s Space Radiation Laboratory, the researchers exposed the mice to levels of radiation comparable to what astronauts would experience on a trip to Mars. They found that the mice showed decreased cognitive abilities earlier in life and that their brains showed signs of vascular alterations and a greater-than-normal accumulation of plaque associated with Alzheimer’s. Although NASA has been funding radiation research for 25 years, this is the first study to examine radiation’s effect on neurodegeneration. The highly massive and energetic particles that the researchers used are much harder to shield a spacecraft against than the more familiar radiation created by solar flares.