Traffic-related air pollution could weaken brain function, says study

Wednesday 17th May 2023 06:33 EDT

Research from the University of California, Irvine found memory loss, cognitive decline, and the activation of neural pathways linked to the start of Alzheimer’s disease were shown to be caused by exposure to air pollution caused by traffic. The study's results are published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.
Masashi Kitazawa, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental and occupational health in the UCI Programme in Public Health, is the corresponding and senior author of the study. "The link between air pollution and Alzheimer's disease is concerning, as the prevalence of toxicants in ambient air is not just on the rise globally, but also hitting close to home here in Irvine," he said. The effects of particulate matter on brain function are not limited to what our studies show.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly and is a growing public health crisis in the US and several other countries. Despite extensive research on all aspects of Alzheimer's disease, its exact origins remain elusive. Although genetic predispositions are known to play a prominent role in disease progression, growing bodies of evidence suggest that environmental toxicants, specifically air pollution, may cause the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers conducted testing related to memory tasks and cognitive function and found that both benchmarks were impaired by exposure to particulate matter. Notably, they also discovered that their older models (12 months at the time of analysis) showed brain plaque build-up and glial cell activation, which are both known to increase inflammation associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
“Air pollution is one of the very few prominent, modifiable environmental risk factors in Alzheimer's disease," said co-author Michael Kleinman, PhD, adjunct professor of environmental and occupational health in UCI's Program in Public Health. "Public and environmental regulatory agencies need to accelerate efforts to reduce particulate matter levels in order to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other serious health conditions.”
Kitazawa added, “This evidence is alarming, and it's imperative that we take action to adopt effective and evidence-based regulations, spread awareness on lifestyle changes and work together to improve our air quality.”

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