Scientists fromUniversity of British Columbia and dell 'University of Victoria they found that breathing in air pollution could affect how the brain is wired. Inhaling car exhaust could, in fact, change the connectivity of the brain after just two hours of exposure.
In a double-blind randomized study, 25 healthy adults were exposed to pollution in a laboratory setting. After "polluted" sessions, other sessions characterized by exposure to clean filtered air followed. Brain scans of the volunteers showed a reduction in the so-called "Intrinsic Functional Connectivity" (Default mode network, or DMN). It is a collection of interconnected brain regions related to introspection, reflection, remembering and other important activities. The full research has been published at Environmental Health, and I link it here.
This is the first time these findings have been observed in humans, while other studies in the past have looked at the general effects of pollution on the brain. And they noticed a decrease of work skills e of memory.
Does Pollution Damage Brain Connectivity?
As always, more and more studies are needed to confirm each discovery of this type in detail, but the results rain down on us from every laboratory on the planet by now. Pollution, it is now certain, is not limited to kill 9 million people a year: it makes all the others dumber as well.
And while it is true that the results of this study showed that the observed changes in brain connectivity disappeared when the lungs were exposed to clean air, it is also true that long-term exposure to air pollution leads to permanent effects . Not reassuring, considering the fact that by now practically 99% of the inhabitants of the planet is exposed for a short or long time to polluted air.
We need to know more. By force.
The relatively recent discovery that air pollution can damage not only the body, but also the brain (which was previously thought to be protected in some way) deserves further investigation. It is necessary to bring together the results of the various studies undertaken on the planet. In China, for example, recent studies have found that air pollution worsens test results in languages and mathematics: exposing yourself to pollution is equivalent, in short, to losing a year of education. In MexicoAlzheimer's-related markers have been detected in young adults, children and infants due to extreme air pollution.
And we are talking, so far, of studies connected only to the effects of car exhausts. Think of what even more damaging, or faster-acting, sources of pollution can do to the connectivity of our brains. If we can't avoid living in places where the air is compromised, we need at least to protect ourselves: air filters in the car, and in very crowded places a "non-ideological", "not mandatory", but damned practical mask to filter out particles.
Above all, we need to understand the long-term effects that pollution has on our brain: because it literally blows bad air.