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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • 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

Institutes & Expert groups

  • ISGlobal - Barcelona Institute of Global Health
  • Université Paris-Saclay
  • National Research Center for Radiation Medicine of National Academy of National Sciences of Ukraine
  • Radiation Effects Research Foundation
  • talian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development - Energy Technologies Department - Casaccia Research Centre
  • KI - Karolinska Institutet - ett medicinskt universitet
  • IRSN - Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety - Institut Radioprotection Sûreté Nucléaire
  • IARC - International Agency for Research on Cancer
  • CREAL - Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology

Documents & links


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
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Cognition, Neurodevelopment, Neurodegeneration, Ionizing radiation, Low doses, Atomic bombing, Chernobyl accident, Medical radiation, MELODI

ID: 6994507