SNHS Spotlight: Traffic Pollution Impairs Brain Function

In today’s society, people are constantly surrounded by air pollution. How does this impact our health?

The University of British Columbia conducted a study in a laboratory setting exposing twenty-five adults to diesel exhaust. They filtered air briefly at different times. The brain activity of these adults was then measured before the exposure and after the exposure by the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Source: The University of British Columbia

The results of the fMRI revealed that the functional connectivity in the DMN, which is a network of brain regions, of the adult had decreased after exposure to the diesel exhaust. Dr. Jodie Gawryluk, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria and the first author of this study says that the DMN reducing functional connectivity is related to symptoms of depression, so seeing that traffic pollution has a similar impact is concerning. The changes recorded in the brain of the adults were temporary, but in continuous exposure to air pollution, Dr. Carlsten says the effects may last longer. This study only looked at the cognitive impacts of traffic pollution, however, other forms of combustion may be a concern as well.

People should be thoughtful about the air they breathe and try to minimize their exposure to air pollution. Air pollution is seen as the largest environmental threat to human health and the impacts are seen on organ systems, says Dr. Carlsten. These negative impacts of air pollution are an important consideration for public health officials and lawmakers. The relationship between cognition and air pollution helps prove to our society the importance of working to keep our air clean.


Traffic pollution impairs brain function

By Darcy Moore’24, SNHS Member

Categories: SNHS