CogniFit's Science blog: Apart From All The Rest, Pollution Can Also... Lead To Brain Damage

Apart From All The Rest, Pollution Can Also... Lead To Brain Damage

The pleasures and convenience of modern life come at a cost, almost like a trade-off we need to accept. Most of the developments bring with it negative effects, one of the most important and structural for today and for the future is pollution.

The Green movements have been developing over the past decades around the world, and in reality much has been done lately to fight the effects of the industrial development and consumption. But needless to say, that has just been the tip of the iceberg.

In a study from the University of Ohio, published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, it has been indicated that prolonged exposure to air pollution can damage the brain and lead to problems in learning, memory and depression. While writing this I cannot avoid but thinking: “apart from all the negative effects pollution already has in our lives, now it’s been investigated its effects on the center of our being, our brain!”.

In fact, tests in mice showed that in the long term pollution can cause real physical changes in the brain which in turn has had negative effects in its functioning. Although other studies have examined the effect of polluted air is the heart and lungs, this is one of the first to investigate its effect on the brain. The findings also note that this means serious consequences for people who live and work in polluted areas around the world.

The mice in this research have been exposed to filtered air or polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week, for almost half of their life span (which is about 10 months). The polluted air was similar to the one created by cars or factories, the same type of pollution a human being can experience as well while living in a urban area.

In previous experiments with mice, it was found that fine particles from the air could cause a generalized inflammation in the body and it may be associated with hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Now the researchers wanted to develop these conclusions by looking at the brain.

After 10 months of exposure, behavioral tests were performed, including learning and memory tests. The mice who breathed polluted air took more time to find out where the exit was tested and subsequently more likely to forget where he was. A second experiment showed mice exposed to polluted air at higher depressive-like and higher anxiety-like behavior in a trial, but not in the control group.

To find out how the contamination has led to changes in learning, memory and mood, the researchers tested the region of the hippocampus brains of mice and found clear physical differences. They also found some inflammation of the hippocampus and the active chemical messengers that cause inflammation in mice who breathed polluted air, which is related to learning and decreasing memory capacity.

Again, we come to a very simple conclusion which has already been proven right previously. Our lives and health suffer many risks every day, and the positive effects of the society developments are quickly challenged by the risks that development poses. But as science creates the development, it also creates the alternatives to cope with the risks. Brain Training and Neuroscience are the answers to the risks of diminishing brain capacity and cognitive abilities, and help each of the individuals to live a brain fit life.