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Curr Environ Health Rep. 2018 Sep;5(3):351-364. doi: 10.1007/s40572-018-0209-9.

The Effects of Air Pollution on the Brain: a Review of Studies Interfacing Environmental Epidemiology and Neuroimaging.

Author information

1
Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
2
MRI Research Unit, Department of Radiology, Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain.
3
Centro Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAM G21, Barcelona, Spain.
4
ISGLOBAL, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain.
5
Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Madrid, Spain.
6
Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques-Parc de Salut Mar, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
7
Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. marion.mortamais@isglobal.org.
8
ISGLOBAL, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain. marion.mortamais@isglobal.org.
9
Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Madrid, Spain. marion.mortamais@isglobal.org.

Abstract

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:

An emerging body of evidence has raised concern regarding the potentially harmful effects of inhaled pollutants on the central nervous system during the last decade. In the general population, traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) exposure has been associated with adverse effects on cognitive, behavior, and psychomotor development in children, and with cognitive decline and higher risk of dementia in the elderly. Recently, studies have interfaced environmental epidemiology with magnetic resonance imaging to investigate in vivo the effects of TRAP on the human brain. The aim of this systematic review was to describe and synthesize the findings from these studies. The bibliographic search was carried out in PubMed with ad hoc keywords.

RECENT FINDINGS:

The selected studies revealed that cerebral white matter, cortical gray matter, and basal ganglia might be the targets of TRAP. The detected brain damages could be involved in cognition changes. The effect of TRAP on cognition appears to be biologically plausible. Interfacing environmental epidemiology and neuroimaging is an emerging field with room for improvement. Future studies, together with inputs from experimental findings, should provide more relevant and detailed knowledge about the nature of the relationship between TRAP exposure and cognitive, behavior, and psychomotor disorders observed in the general population.

KEYWORDS:

Air pollution; Brain; Cognition; Epidemiological studies; Neuroimaging

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