With the increased international emphasis on manned space exploration, there is a growing need to understand the impact of the spaceflight environment on health and behavior. One particularly important aspect of this environment is low-dose radiation. In the present studies, we first characterized the γ- and proton-irradiation dose effect on acoustic startle and pre-pulse inhibition behaviors in mice exposed to 0–5 Gy brain-localized irradiation, and assessed these effects 2 days later. Subsequently, we used 2 Gy to assess the time course of γ- and proton-radiation effects on startle reactivity 0–8 days after exposure. Exposures targeted the brain to minimize the impact of peripheral inflammation-induced sickness behavior. The effects of radiation on startle were subtle and acute. Radiation reduced the startle response at 2 and 5 Gy. Following a 2-Gy exposure, the response reached a minimum at the 2-day point. Proton and γ-ray exposures did not differ in their impact on startle. We found there were no effects of radiation on pre-pulse inhibition of the startle response.

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