Free radicals produced by exposure to heavy particles have been found to produce motor and cognitive behavioral toxicity effects in rats similar to those found during aging. The present research was designed to investigate the effects of exposure to 56Fe particles on the ability of male Sprague-Dawley rats to detect novel arrangements in a given environment. Using a test of spatial memory previously demonstrated to be sensitive to aging, open field activity and reaction to spatial and non-spatial changes were measured in a group that received a dose of 1.5 Gy ( n=10) of 56Fe heavy particle radiation or in non-radiated controls ( n=10). Animals irradiated with 1.5 Gy of 56Fe particles exhibited some age-like effects in rats tested, even though they were, for the most part, subtle. Animals took longer to enter, visited less and spent significantly less time in the middle and the center portions of the open field, independently of total frequency and duration of activity of both groups. Likewise, irradiated subjects spend significantly more time exploring novel objects placed in the open field than did controls. However, irradiated subjects did not vary from controls in their exploration patterns when objects in the open field were spatially rearranged. Thus, irradiation with a dose of 1.5 Gy of 56Fe high-energy particle radiation elicited age-like effects in general open field exploratory behavior, but did not elicit age-like effects during the spatial and non-spatial rearrangement tasks.