Washington, July 6: A new study has linked long-term exposure to air pollution with lesser-known risks such as learning and memory problems and even depression.
Researchers conducted a study on mice, which showed how air pollution could cause these physical changes in the brain, apart from damaging the heart and lungs.
“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,” said Laura Fonken, a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.
“This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world,” she added.
During the study, mice were exposed to either filtered air or polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week for 10 months, which amounts for nearly half their lifespan.
The polluted air contained fine particulate matter, the kind of pollution created by cars, factories and natural dust, according to the researchers.
After 10 months of exposure to the polluted or filtered air, the researchers performed a variety of behavioral tests on the animals.
In a learning and memory test, mice were placed in the middle of a brightly lit arena and given two minutes to find an escape hole leading to a dark box where they feel more comfortable.
They were given five days of training to locate the escape hole, but the mice who breathed the polluted air took longer to learn where the escape hole was located.
Also, they were less likely to remember where the escape hole was when tested later.
Additionally, mice exposed to the polluted air showed more depressive-like behaviors than did the mice that breathed the filtered air.
The study appears online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. (ANI)