Early life radiation exposure causes long-lasting behavior changes.

Dec 11, 2008

Caceres LG, H Rios and LR Guelman. 2008. Long-lasting effects of neonatal ionizing radiation exposure on spatial memory and anxiety-like behavior. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety doi:10.1016/j.ecoenv.2008.09.009.

Synopsis by Niladri Basu

Exposure to ionizing radiation just days after birth can impact anxiety and memory during later life, finds a new study with rats.

Ionizing radiation is commonly used in cancer therapy and in x-ray technologies. Ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays are types of ionizing radiation.

For the most part, pregnant women and infants -- who would be most at risk to the study's findings --  are not exposed to the radiation through medical procedures.

In this laboratory study, scientists exposed rats once to ionizing radiation within 48 hours after birth. When they tested animal behavior at 30 days and 90 days, reseachers observed several key changes in how the exposed animals handled mazes and open field behavior tests when compared to the unexposed rats.

The radiation exposed rats were less anxious and more forgetful. These behavioral changes are believed to be caused by structural damage to the brain cerebellum. Since structural damage in the brain cerebellum is difficult to repair, these behavioral changes are believed to be long lasting and most likely permanant.