Relatively little is known about early irradiation effects on hippocampal function in wild-type mice. In this study, the effects of (56)Fe irradiation on hippocampal function were assessed starting 2 weeks after whole-body irradiation. Compared to sham irradiation, radiation impaired novel object recognition in female and male C57BL/6J wild-type mice. There were no effects of irradiation on contextual fear conditioning or spatial memory retention in the water maze. It is possible that oxidative damage might contribute to radiation-induced cognitive changes. Therefore, hippocampal and cortical levels of 3-nitrotyrosine (3NT) and lipid peroxidation, measures of oxidative damage were assessed. There were no effects of irradiation on these measures of oxidative damage. As (56)Fe irradiation can increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, which may contribute to the impairments in novel object recognition, the effects of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) on cognition following sham irradiation and irradiation were also assessed. ALA did not prevent radiation-induced impairments in novel object recognition and impaired spatial memory retention of sham-irradiated and irradiated mice in the probe trial after the first day of hidden platform training in the water maze. Thus, the novel object recognition test is particularly sensitive to detect early cognitive effects of (56)Fe irradiation through a mechanism unlikely involving ROS or oxidative damage.