Heavy ions light flashes and brain functions: recent observations at accelerators and in spaceflight
L Narici (2008). "Heavy ions light flashes and brain functions: recent observations at accelerators and in spaceflight." New Journal of Physics 10 7: 075010
Interactions between ionizing radiation in space and brain functions, and the related risk assessments, are among the major concerns when programming long permanence in space, especially when outside the protective shield of the Earth's magnetosphere. The light flashes (LF) observed by astronauts in space, mostly when dark adapted, are an example of these interactions; investigations in space and on the ground showed that these effects can originate with the action of ionizing radiation in the eye. Recent findings from ALTEA, an interdisciplinary and multiapproach program devoted to the study of different aspects of the radiation–brain functions interaction, are presented in this paper. These include: (i) study of radiation passing through the astronauts' eyes in the International Space Station (≈20 ions min −1 , excluding H and fast and very slow He), measured in conjunction with reporting of the perception of LF; (ii) preliminary electrophysiological evidence of these events in astronauts and in patients during heavy ion therapy; and (iii) in vitro results showing the radiation driven activation of rhodopsin at the start of the phototransduction cascade in the process of vision. These results are in agreement with our previous work on mice. A brief but complete summary of the earlier works is also reported to permit a discussion of the results.