New research suggests that long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression. While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first studies to show the negative impact on the brain.
Neuroscientist Laura Fonken says, "The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems. This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world." The fine air particulate matter in pollution causes widespread inflammation in the body, and can be linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. But what does air pollution do to the brain?
When mice were exposed to long term pollution of the kind that people are exposed to in urban areas–the kind created by cars, factories and natural dust–their memories were not as good as they had been originally. There were clear physical differences in the brains of the mice who were exposed to polluted air compared to those who weren’t. Neuroscientist Randy Nelson says, "Previous research has shown that these types of changes are linked to decreased learning and memory abilities."
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