Exposure to low doses of high-energy iron particles can alter motor behavior. The ability of rats to hang from a wire has been reported to be significantly degraded after exposure to doses as low as 0.5 Gy. In addition, deficits in the ability of acetylcholine to regulate dopamine release in the caudate nucleus (an area in the brain important for motor function) have been found. The concentrations of 3-methoxytyramine (3-MT), a metabolite of dopamine whose concentrations reflect dopamine release in vivo, were measured after rats were exposed to different doses of high-energy iron particles to gain further information about the effect of radiation on the dopaminergic system. Concentrations of 3-MT were significantly reduced 3 days after exposure to 5 Gy but returned to control values by 8 days. After 6 months, concentrations were again less than control values. Exposure to 5 Gy of high-energy electrons or γ photons had no effect 3 days after exposure. Very high doses of electrons were needed to alter 3-MT concentrations. One hundred grays of electrons decreased 3-MT 30 min after irradiation but levels returned to control values by 60 min. Gamma photons had no effect after doses up to 200 Gy. These results provide further evidence that exposure to heavy particles can degrade motor behavior through an action on dopaminergic mechanisms and that this can occur after doses much lower than those needed for low-LET radiation.

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