Cognitive effects of low dose of ionizing radiation – Lessons learned and research gaps from epidemiological and biological studies

Elisa Pasqual, François Boussin, Dimitry Bazyka, Arvid Nordenskjöld, Michiko Yamada, Kotaro Ozasa, Simonetta Pazzaglia, Laurence Roy, Isabelle Thierry-Chef, Florent de Vathaire, Rafi Benotmane, Elisabeth Cardis

    Research outputpeer-review


    The last decades have seen increased concern about the possible effects of low to moderate doses of ionizing radiation (IR) exposure on cognitive function.
    An interdisciplinary group of experts (biologists, epidemiologists, dosimetrists and clinicians) in this field gathered together in the framework of the European MELODI workshop on non-cancer effects of IR to summarise the state of knowledge on the topic and elaborate research recommendations for future studies in this area.
    Overall, there is evidence of cognitive effects from low IR doses both from biology and epidemiology, though a better characterization of effects and understanding of mechanisms is needed.
    There is a need to better describe the specific cognitive function or diseases that may be affected by radiation exposure. Such cognitive deficit characterization should consider the human life span, as effects might differ with age at exposure and at outcome assessment.
    Measurements of biomarkers, including imaging, will likely help our understanding on the mechanism of cognitive-related radiation induced deficit. The identification of loci of individual genetic susceptibility and the study of gene expression may help identify individuals at higher risk.
    The mechanisms behind the radiation induced cognitive effects are not clear and are likely to involve several biological pathways and different cell types.
    Well conducted research in large epidemiological cohorts and experimental studies in appropriate animal models are needed to improve the understanding of radiation-induced cognitive effects. Results may then be translated into recommendations for clinical radiation oncology and imaging decision making processes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number106295
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalEnvironmental International
    StatePublished - Feb 2021

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