In this study, the effects of radiation exposure on cognitive performance were evaluated. Rats were exposed to either helium (4He) particles (1,000 MeV/n; 0.1–10 cGy; head only) or cesium 137Cs gamma rays (50–400 cGy; whole body), after which their cognitive performance was evaluated. The results indicated that exposure to doses of 4He particles as low as 0.1 cGy disrupted performance in a variety of cognitive tasks, including plus-maze performance (baseline anxiety), novel location recognition (spatial performance) and operant responding on an ascending fixed-ratio reinforcement schedule (motivation and responsiveness to changes in environmental contingencies) but not on novel object recognition performance (learning and memory). In contrast, after exposure to 137Cs gamma rays only plus-maze performance was affected. There were no significant effects on any other task. Because exposure to both types of radiation produce oxidative stress, these results indicate that radiation-produced oxidative stress may be a necessary condition for the radiation-induced disruption of cognitive performance, but it is not a sufficient condition.

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