Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, low-dose radiation has proved to have significant effects on normal brain development, shown by the birds’ brain size. Smaller brain sizes are believed to be linked to reduced cognitive ability, says~ Dr. Timothy Mousseau, a USC biology science professor who, along with his collaborator, Anders Moller of the University of Paris-Sud in France, led the team of researchers from the United States, Italy, Norway, France and Ukraine.
“These findings point to broad-scale neurological effects of chronic exposure to low-dose radiation,” Mousseau said. “The fact that we see this pattern for a large portion of the bird community suggests a general phenomenon that may have significant long-term repercussions.”
Mousseau said these types of defects have been previously reported in humans and other organisms, but those were at higher contamination levels.
Mousseau has been studying the effects of the Chernobyl accident for 12 years, exploring the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the radioactive contaminants affecting populations of birds, insects and people inhabiting the Chernobyl region of Ukraine.
In this study, published this month in the journal PLoS One, Mousseau and his colleagues studied 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in exclusion zones set up around the site of the accident. The researchers found the small brains were particularly evident in the youngest birds.
“This suggests that many of the birds with smaller brains are not surviving to the next year, perhaps related to decreased cognitive abilities.” “Mousseau said not only are their brains smaller, but it seems they are not as capable at dealing with their environment as evidenced by their lower rates of survival”.
Stressed birds often adapt by changing the size of some of their organs to survive difficult environment conditions. The brain is the last organ to be sacrificed this way, meaning the radiation could be having worse impacts on other organs of the birds.
Mousseau said there is information in the medical literature to suggest that low-dose radiation can be harmful to humans, including recent studies on children in northern Ukraine who have higher rates of neural tube defects and related neurological disorders than other children in uncontaminated regions of the Ukraine and Europe.
Since 1998, the University of South Carolina has sponsored research related to the long-term ecological and health consequences of the radioactive contaminants that were dispersed over vast expanses of Europe in 1986. The research is important for the understanding of long-term consequences of radiation and ecosystems and human health, and it will be instrumental in predicting the environmental half-lives of these contaminants. This research is also of significance for hazard assessment related to industrial, military or terrorist nuclear incidents and the effects of mutagens on evolutionary responses of natural populations.
Last year, Mousseau and Moller published the results of the largest wildlife census of its kind conducted in Chernobyl. The study revealed that insect diversity and mammals were declining in the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant. The research examined how often a species renewed parts of its DNA, thus finding a way to predict which species were likely to be most severely damaged by radioactive contamination.
Further information can be found at: http://cricket.biol.sc.edu/chernobyl/
Megan Sexton | Newswise Science News
Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy