From OSU Doc Study in Molecular Psychiatry: This is Your Brain on Air Pollution

BY ON July 8, 2011

This piece was cross-posted on Writes Like She Talks.

The current issue of Molecular Psychiatry features the work of Laura Fonken, a doctoral student in neuroscience at OSU. It’s titled, “Air pollution impairJill Miller Zimons cognition, provokes depressive-like behaviors and alters hippocampal cytokine expression and morphology.” According to this post on, “Colleagues in Ohio State’s Department of Neuroscience collaborated with researchers in the university’s Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute.”  The research is getting a lot of coverage.

So what do they say our brain looks like on dirty air?

“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.”

Specifically, from The Daily Mail, “A cloud over our lives: Air pollution linked to learning problems and depression:”

The mice were exposed to the equivalent matter that people who live in polluted urban areas could expect.

After 10 months of exposure the researchers then performed a variety of behavioral tests on the animals.

The mice who breathed polluted air took longer to learn where the escape hole was located. They were also less likely to remember where the escape hole was when tested later.

In regard to depression:

In another experiment mice exposed to the polluted air showed more depressive-like behaviours, with higher levels of anxiety.

The researchers tested the hippocampal area of the mice brains to find out how air pollution leads to changes in learning, memory and mood.

Results showed clear physical differences in the hippocampi of the mice who were exposed to polluted air compared to those who were not.

And finally:

In other studies researchers found chronic exposure to polluted air leads to widespread inflammation in the body, which is linked to a variety of health problems in humans, including depression.

Now, for women, and women who are moms, it’s not as if we don’t have enough interactions and responsibilities to increase the number and severity of risks to our health – mental, emotional and physical.  Having to be concerned about the air we breath – which is supposed to sustain us, as being an additional and not just casual or peripheral risk – seems beyond the pale, and beyond what anyone should have to tolerate.

And that’s us, as adults.  What about the kids?

And appropos of almost but not completely nothing: how many times during deficit and debt debates have you heard one elected or another cite their kids and future generations as the reason why we need to fix our federal fiscal problems?

Does your health – our health – our kids’ health – truly not rate the same priority?

TOPICS: Pollution