Effects of chronic exposure to a mixed field of neutrons and photons on behavioral and cognitive performance in mice

Ruby E. Perez, Skyler Younger, Elin Bertheau, Christina M. Fallgren, Michael M. Weil, Jacob Raber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


To simulate the space radiation environment astronauts are exposed to, most studies involve acute exposures but during a space mission there will be chronic (long-lasting) exposures. To address this knowledge gap, a neutron irradiator using a 252Cf (252Californium) source was used to generate a mixed field of neutrons and photons to simulate chronic, low dose rate exposures to high LET radiation. In the present study, we assessed the effects chronic neutron exposure starting at 60 days of age on behavioral and cognitive performance of BALB/c female and C3H male mice at 600 and 700 days of age as part of an opportunistic study that took advantage of the availability of neutron and sham-irradiated mice from a radiation carcinogenesis experiment. There were profound dose- and time point-dependent effects of chronic neutron exposure. At the 600-day time point, irradiated BALB/c female mice showed improved nest building at all three doses. At the 700-day, but not 600-day, time point slightly but significantly increased body weights were seen in C3H male mice exposed to 0.118 Gy. At the 600-day time point BALB/c female mice irradiated with 0.2 Gy did, like sham-irradiated, not show preferential exploration of the novel object that was seen in mice irradiated with 0.118 or 0.4 Gy. In C3H male mice exposed to 0.4 Gy and at the 600-day time point, increased measures of anxiety were observed on days 1 and 2 in the open field. Thus, different outcome measures show distinct dose-response relationships, with some anticipated to worsen performance during space missions, like increased measures of anxiety, while other anticipated to enhance performance, such as increased nest building and object recognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112377
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Feb 3 2020


  • Activity and anxiety in the open field
  • Chronic neutron exposure
  • Contextual and cued fear memory
  • Object recognition
  • Space flight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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