Exposing rats to particles of high energy and charge (e.g., 56Fe) disrupts neuronal systems and the behaviors mediated by them; these adverse behavioral and neuronal effects are similar to those seen in aged animals. Because cognition declines with age, and our previous study showed that radiation disrupted Morris water maze spatial learning and memory performance, the present study used an 8-arm radial maze (RAM) to further test the cognitive behavioral consequences of radiation exposure. Control rats or rats exposed to whole-body irradiation with 1.0 Gy of 1 GeV/n high-energy 56Fe particles (delivered at the alternating gradient synchrotron at Brookhaven National Laboratory) were tested nine months following exposure. Radiation adversely affected RAM performance, and the changes seen parallel those of aging. Irradiated animals entered baited arms during the first 4 choices significantly less than did controls, produced their first error sooner, and also tended to make more errors as measured by re-entries into non-baited arms. These results show that irradiation with high-energy particles produces age-like decrements in cognitive behavior that may impair the ability of astronauts to perform critical tasks during long-term space travel beyond the magnetosphere.