A research study has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may lead to loss of white matter in the brain.
In the study, older women who lived in places with higher air pollution had significantly reduced white matter in the brain. White matter in the brain is made of axon cells, which enable the nerves to communicate.
“Investigating the impact of air pollution on the human brain is a new area of environmental neurosciences,” said lead author of the study Jiu-Chiuan Chen from Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in the US.
“Our study provides the convincing evidence that several parts of the ageing brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-term exposure to fine particles in the ambient air.”
For the study, the researchers took brain scans of 1403 women who were 71 to 89 years old and used residential histories and air monitoring data to estimate their exposure to air pollution in the previous six to seven years.
The results suggest that ambient particulate air pollutants may have a deleterious effect on brain ageing.
The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.
Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution at age 1 may lead to structural changes in the brain at the age of 12 which can influence the development of various physical and mental processes, warns a study.
The researchers found that children with higher levels of air pollution exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure. Gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in motor control as well as sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing. Cortical thickness reflects the outer gray matter depth.
The study, published online in the journal PLOS One, found that specific regions in the frontal and parietal lobes and the cerebellum were affected with decreases on the order of three to four per cent. “The results of this study, though exploratory, suggest that where you live and the air you breathe can affect how your brain develops,” said lead author of the study Travis Beckwith, PhD, a research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the US.
“While the percentage of loss is far less than what might be seen in a degenerative disease state, this loss may be enough to influence the development of various physical and mental processes,” Beckwith said. For the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to obtain anatomical brain images from 147 kids.
These children are a subset of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), which recruited volunteers prior to the age of six months to examine early childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution and health outcomes.
The volunteers in the CCAAPS had either high or low levels of pollution exposure during their first year of life. The researchers estimated exposure using an air sampling network of 27 sites in the Cincinnati area, and 24/7 sampling was conducted simultaneously at four or five sites over different seasons.
Participating children and their caregivers completed clinic visits at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12. Previous studies of traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders. (IANS)