Some aspects of the biological effects of space weather

Some aspects of the biological effects of space weather

ARTICLE IN PRESS Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 70 (2008) 436–441 Some aspects of the biological...

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Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 70 (2008) 436–441

Some aspects of the biological effects of space weather T.K. Breusa,, V.A. Ozheredova, E.V. Syutkinab, A.N. Rogozac a

Space Weather Department, Space Research Institute RAS, Profsoyznaya 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia b Scientific Centre for Children Health RAMS, Moscow, Russia c A.L. Miasnikov’s Centre of Cardiology, Moscow, Russia Accepted 27 August 2007 Available online 29 September 2007

Abstract Space weather hazards have been well-studied during the past few decades, mainly in connection with effects on technical systems. The biological effects of solar and geomagnetic activity have been largely ignored because the amplitudes of the electromagnetic fields (EMF) are small, typically one to several hundreds of nanoteslas. This is much weaker than electromagnetic noise of anthropogenic origin and about 10 orders of magnitude less than the characteristic energies of biochemical reactions. During the past 20 years, however, more careful consideration has been given to possible nonthermal mechanisms of interaction of biological systems with weak (o1 mT) low-frequency EMF, which are unavoidably present in the environment, and some progress has been made towards understanding how an interaction can occur. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Heliogeomagnetic factors; Biological reactions; Groups of risk; Newborn babies; Cosmonauts; Cardiovascular pathology

1. Introduction 1.1. A new hypothesis concerning the producing biological effects by heliogeomagnetic activity (space weather) It has recently been proposed in our papers (Breus et al., 1995a b, 2002) that heliogeomagnetic rhythmic variations may act as external synchronizers of biological rhythms in a manner similar to the effects of the variations of sunlight and temperature on diurnal (circadian) biorhythms due to the Earth’s rotation. The biorhythms of a biological system may be influenced by weak, regular fluctuations with

noise, depending on the amplitude of noise, with the external regular signals being ‘trapped’ and evolutionary integrated into its time structure when the system is in an unstable state—a phenomenon known as ‘stochastic resonance’ or ‘stochastic filtration’ (Gammaitoni et al., 1998). Such a ‘magnetobiological’ mechanism based on the results, obtained by Kirschvink et al. (1985), on magnetosomes (iron components in some biological cells of humans and animals as receptors of electromagnetic signals) had been proposed in a paper by Binhi and Chernavskii (2005).

2. Our previously obtained results Corresponding author. Tel.: +7 495 3333012;

fax: +7 495 3331278. E-mail address: [email protected] (T.K. Breus). 1364-6826/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2007.08.025

A dedicated study to confirm suggested hypotheses using data obtained from laboratories and

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clinics had been performed in 1995–2003. These included (1) statistical investigations of ambulance call data in Moscow (6 million ambulance calls and 10 different diseases); examinations of 172 patients in Moscow hospitals and 397 patients in Minnesota hospital (USA) (Breus et al., 1995a, 2002, 1992, 1994; Villoresi et al., 1994); (2) Holter monitoring of the heart rhythms of cosmonauts during all expeditions on ‘‘Soyuz’’ spacecraft (1995–7) and on some of the expeditions on the MIR Orbital stations were shortly described in Baevsky et al. (1997) and Breus et al. (1998). Monitoring of the heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) of 238 newborn babies was undertaken in Moscow and Minnesota (USA) (Breus et al., 1996; Syutkina et al., 1997). There have been laboratory experiments and observations of animals (240 rabbits) in Moscow during magnetic storms in comparison with quiet geomagnetic conditions (Chibisov et al., 1995). In clinical investigations the Holter monitoring, viscosity characteristics of blood in arteries and capillaries (Breus et al., 2002), production of stress


hormones and melatonin by adrenal and pineal glands were performed (Rapoport et al., 1995). It has been shown that biological rhythms with periods coinciding with about 28-day period of solar rotation and its harmonics and sub-harmonics (ca. 14, 9, 7, 5.4 and 3.5 days) as well as micropulsations in the range of heart rhythms (Rapoport et al., 2006) and 11-year cycles are likely to be revealed on each biological level, including population (Breus et al., 2002; Cornelissen et al., 2002). There are ‘groups of risk’ depending on the nature of the instability of biological system, namely ‘undermined’ (sick patients), ‘immature’ (babies and small children) and ‘burdened by other stresses’ (e.g. cosmonauts, Breus et al. (1998)).

3. Results obtained in one of the ‘‘groups of risk’’—a group of newborn babies As shown in Fig. 1, the HRs and DBPs of babies during the first 4 months (upper bands, right) are characterized by components with periods of about

Fig. 1. Spectral components of the planetary index of geomagnetic activity Kp (left) and of rapid Fourier transformation spectra (FFT) of the heart rate (HR) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) of a baby (right) Halberg et al. (1991) monitored around-the-clock from birth for the first 26 months of life. The ordinates shown are beats per minute (HR) and mmHg (blood pressure). The overall monitoring span has been divided into five 4-month spans and averaged in each case.


T.K. Breus et al. / Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 70 (2008) 436–441

27, 14, 7 and 3.5 days. The geomagnetic index Kp exhibits similar components. The next step was to find a correlation between both time series—newborns parameters and local K index. The results of estimation of correlation coefficients for BP and HR of children (33 neonates) during several weeks in the Scientific Centre for Children Health RAMS in Moscow are shown in Table 1. In another case systolic, diastolic and average BPs and HR were monitored during 16–42 days in a group of 13 children in the same Centre. These children were born at 28–37 weeks of gestation. The measurements were every 15–20 min. Obtained data were averaged for 3-h intervals in order to compare with daily local (Moscow) 3-h K index of geomagnetic

Table 1 Correlation coefficients for periods of near-weekly rhythm mentioned in table parameters and corresponding number of local K index (Moscow) Investigated parameter

Correlation coefficient

Number of children

Systolic blood pressure (SBP) Diastolic blood pressure (DBP) Average blood pressure (MABP) Heart rate (HR)









activity. Fig. 2 shows spectral cross-correlation between HR and K index. In this figure each cross-correlation function for babies and corresponding data on K index for the same time interval were undergone by FFT and then averaged in ‘window’ with size being equal to 10 minimal intervals (11 neighboring values were used). Such averaging corresponds to a spectral resolution 0.012—0.03 h1. Spectral density obtained (module squared) from the averaged spectral distribution was normalized by the product of spectral densities both comparing parameters averaged in the same spectral ‘window’. The result of this procedure is accepted as a spectral correlation coefficient. It had to be expected that for independent time series the values of spectral crosscorrelation are close to zero, while for time series varying synchronously in time inside of some spectral interval, these values had to be close to unit. The value 0.602 from the table of Pierson’s correlation coefficient for the degree of freedom 9 ¼ (11–2) and the level of significance 0.05 have been accepted as a level of substantial correlation binding. Fig. 2 shows that significant values of coefficient of spectral cross-correlation are concentrated in daily and near week range. Significant coefficient of cross-spectral correlation at least for one from all parameters had been obtained for 9 from 11 newborns being about 37 weeks by age, i.e. for immature newborns. The effect of geomagnetic storms are found in BP data of 232 preterm and 133 full-term babies monitored for 1–48 days between January 1990 and April 2002 in the Department of neonatology at the Scientific Centre for Children health (Masalov and Syutkina, 2003). Analysis indicates a suppression of the circadian (and/or circasemiseptan) component of BP with shift of 2–3 h (preterm babies) or about 10 h (full-term babies) in acrophase. 4. Results of a group of cardiovascular patients

Fig. 2. Spectral cross-correlation between heart rate (HR) of newborn babies and K index. of geomagnetic activity. RR is a coefficient of spectral cross-correlation. Dotted vertical lines show the frequencies corresponding to weekly (168 h), halfweekly (84 h), daily (24 h) and half-day (12 h) rhythms. Continuous horizontal line shows the level above which the significance of HR and Kp binding is achieved.

The heart and cardiovascular system appear to be the main targets for heliogeomagnetic factors: among 10 diseases associated with 6 million ambulance calls only myocardial infarctions (MI) and sudden deaths from MI were found to be correlated with geomagnetic activity (Breus et al., 2002). During large storms resulting from plasma clouds emitted by the Sun, the number of MI increased by 13% from 80,000 calls (Villoresi et al., 1994).

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As an example, we would like to show results obtained in the group of people at the Miasnikov’s Cardiological Centre, which included 4 patients with 2–3 class coronary artery disease (CAD) at age 47–58, and 2 patients, 45- and 56-year old, with mild arterial hypertension (AH). They were studied during 2 large and 1 moderate magnetic storms under control of study 4 healthy volunteers in the same time period. The following parameters were investigated in CAD and AH patients: M—average daily cardio interval length in ms, s—standard deviation from M values. Cardiac rhythm variability was assessed based on variability analysis of short fragments of rhythmogram (SFV) and calculation of percentage of low variability fragments (PLV).


One CAD patient (47 years old) was particularly sensitive to the magnetic storm. This patient did not experience attacks of angina pectoris during 7 days preceding the large storm on 27.09.95. However, Holter monitoring recorded ST depression by 3 mm between 04.00 and 06.00 a.m. (UT) of the storm day close to the end of geomagnetic micropulsations Pc 1 event (Fig. 3). At that time some modest decreasing of BP was observed, which started simultaneously with Pc1 magnetic micropulsations onset as it was recorded at Borok (Russia) and Sodankyla (Finland) observatories. The Sodankyla sonogram (Fig. 3, middle panel) shows that the Pc1 pulsations continued up to 02.00 UT with a slowly rising frequencies from 0.3 to 0.5 Hz. An about

Fig. 3. (a) Holter monitoring of heart rhythm (left) and arterial blood pressure (right) for a 47-year-old patient suffering from ischemic heart disease (Miasnicov’s Centre of Cardiology, Moscow). During a geomagnetic storm (Dst shown in (4c)), a Pc1 event was detected in Sodankyla (Finland) about 1 h before the ischemic crisis shown by the decrease of ST interval on the electrocardiogram and the increase of arterial blood pressure, which was followed by pain and angina pectoris crises.


T.K. Breus et al. / Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 70 (2008) 436–441

2 h later the BP of this patient suddenly sharply increased. After the medical treatment, the BP was normalized and angina pectoris crises removed. Data analysis for the whole group showed that all the CAD patients had episodes of ST depression during magnetic storms. Half of CAD patients showed increased low-variability fragments PLV at night of large storm (from 7% up to 34%.). These results evidence exaggerated rigidity of the cardiac rhythm and shifting of autonomous heart control toward sympathetic prevalence on background of magnetic storm. Thus, it is evident from decrease of HR variability obtained here (stabilization of heart rhythm), increased blood viscosity, increase of secretion of stress hormones and cortizol in data of ill and healthy people and depression of melatonin shown in Rapoport et al. (1995), that magnetic storms create a reaction type of general adaptive stress syndrome and affect a vascular tonus. Comparable results were obtained recently and independently by I. Stoilova and S. Dimitrova (Bulgaria) on the basis of examinations and observations of 86 working volunteers during the period of autumn and spring equinox (Dimitrova et al., 2002). 5. Conclusions Geomagnetic storms create specific and nonspecific adaptive stress reaction both in groups of risk and in healthy people. Nonspecific reaction is evident from decrease of heart rate variability (stabilization of heart rhythm, increased blood viscosity, secretion of stress hormones and cortizol and depression of melatonin). The specific reaction is a type of meteo-stress reaction and affects a vascular tonus. The most biotropic factor among geomagnetic disturbances seems to be the Pc1 micropulsations with frequencies corresponding to the main heart rhythms. Its consequences may lead to myocardial infarctions, and according to Rapoport et al. (2006), to arrhythmia, heart fibrillation and even sudden death. Acknowledgments The authors are indebted to referees for a critical discussion of this article, to Prof. Franz Halberg and Dr. G. Cornelissen for their invaluable help

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