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Sun, Mar 13, 2016

Italian Scientists Present Neuroscientific Protocol To Protect Astronauts

Research Presented At American Academy Of Forensic Sciences Meeting

Vincenzo Lusa, professor at Milan's Università Internazionale di Scienze della Sicurezza e della Difesa Sociale and at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure, and Annarita Franza, professor at the University of Florence, took part in the 68th annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the most important international organization for forensic science research and study.

Held last month in Las Vegas, thousands of scholars from around the world attended the meeting. A neuroscientific security protocol was conceived and presented by the two professors. It aimed at protecting those NASA astronauts deployed on long space missions (e.g., the Mars or Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) missions), who have been identified as carriers of particular genetic and/or physical abnormalities.

The protocol is based on forensic studies of behavioral genetics carried out in the field of deviance and on neuroscientific research that has identified structural and functional abnormalities in those brain districts that favor criminal acts. The study presented by the two professors highlighted the possibility that, when undergoing long periods of isolation in the company of others under high stress conditions due to various causes, such as non-earth environments, astronauts could manifest violent behaviors as a result of the presence in their bodies of such particular polymorphisms as MAOA, serotonin receptor (5-HTRIA), (5-HTR1B), serotonin transporter (SLC6A4), tryptophan hydroxylase 1 and 2 (TPH1 and TPH2), COMT gene, human dopamine receptor (DRD4) gene (DBH), androgen receptor (AR), estrogen receptor (ESR1).

Moreover, the protocol takes into account the use of such diagnostic methods as brain imaging techniques (CT, PET, and fMRI) that reveal abnormalities in brain structures, (e.g., the telencephalon and the cerebral cortex), where the limbic system (amygdala, thalamus, and hippocampus) is present. They are involved in controlling aggressive drives in individuals predisposed to perform deviant acts, presenting dysfunctional anomalies of the previously mentioned anatomical districts.

(Image provided with American Academy of Forensic Sciences news release. (L-R) Vincenzo Lusa JD, Annarita Franza PhD)

FMI: www.aafs.org

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