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Air pollution linked to learning and memory problems, depression
Date:7/5/2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression, new research in mice suggests.

While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain, said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

"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," Fonken said.

"This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world."

The study appears online this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

For this study, Fonken and colleagues in Ohio State's Department of Neuroscience collaborated with researchers in the university's Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute.

In previous studies in mice, the Davis research group including Qinghua Sun, associate professor of environmental health sciences, and Sanjay Rajagopalan, professor of cardiovascular medicine -- found that fine air particulate matter causes widespread inflammation in the body, and can be linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. This new study aimed to extend their research on air pollution to the brain.

"The more we learn about the health effects of prolonged exposure to air pollution, the more reasons there are to be concerned," said Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State.

"This study adds more evidence of pollution's negative effects on health."

In the new study, mice were exposed to either filtered air or polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week for 10 months nearly half the lifespan of the mice.


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Contact: Laura Fonken
Fonken.1@osu.edu
614-688-4674
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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