Exposure to galactic cosmic rays (GCR) poses an obstacle to successful deep space missions, including missions to the Moon or Mars. Previously, we and others have identified chronic cognitive impairments associated with GCR in rodent model systems. The persistent cognitive loss previously reported is indicative of global changes in different regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. It has been shown that both of these brain regions are involved in social functions. Here we demonstrate that four months after a single exposure to oxygen ionizing radiation, which is a component of GCR, adult male mice have social memory deficits. Importantly, we identified circulating levels of CD8 T cells as predictors of social behavioral changes. Thus, CD8 T cells could be used as a potential peripheral biomarker. To the best of our knowledge we demonstrate for the first time that GCR-induced impairments in social behavior are directly linked to peripheral immune changes. These results further advance our understanding of the challenges encountered during space exploration.
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Vol. 190 • No. 2