Levels of fine particulate matter in air pollution were associated in a dose-response manner with amounts of brain volume loss, according to a study in the journal Stroke. The type of brain volume loss detected is associated with impaired cognitive function.
Scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine studied more than 900 people over 60 years of age who were part of the Framingham Heart Study. They found that the worse the air pollution was that people were being exposed to, the more loss of brain volume they were experiencing. This type of loss is also associated with aging. They also found an association between pollution and higher rates of “covert brain infarcts,” which a press release described as “a type of ‘silent’ ischemic stroke resulting from a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.”
“This is one of the first studies to look at the relationship between ambient air pollution and brain structure,” a co-author said in the press release. “Our findings suggest that air pollution is associated with insidious effects on structural brain aging, even in dementia- and stroke-free individuals.”
Wilker, Elissa H., Sarah R. Preis, Alexa S. Beiser, Philip A. Wolf, Rhoda Au, Itai Kloog, Wenyuan Li, et al. “Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads and Measures of Brain Structure.” Stroke 46, no. 5 (May 1, 2015): 1161–66. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.008348. (Abstract)
Long-term exposure to air pollution may pose risk to brain structure, cognitive functions (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center press release on ScienceDaily, April 23, 2015)