A recent study suggests that radiation exposure can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark administered low-dose-rate ionizing radiation treatments to two groups of mice. One group received a cumulative dose of 0.3 Gy at a rate of 1 mGy over 24 hours, while the other received 6.0 Gy at 20 mGy over 300 days. In both groups, the hippocampus sustained molecular changes similar to those found in Alzheimer’s patients.

The hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory formation, is known to be negatively affected in Alzheimer’s patients. Those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease experience shrinkage of the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

While infrequent exposure to low-dose radiation is not a major concern, it is increasingly common for individuals to receive high levels of ionizing radiation over a lifetime from airplane flights and medical equipment. Even though the cumulative dose given to the mice in the study is more than 1,000 times smaller than the dose from a CT scan, the radiation exposure was enough to induce changes mirroring Alzheimer’s disease.

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