Updated:01/24/2020 20: 37h
Exposure to traffic-related air pollution during the first years of life is associated with structural changes in the brain at the age of 12. This is stated in a study conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (USA) published today in «PLOS One».
Researchers have seen that children with higher levels of exposure to this type of contamination in their first years of life, at the age of 12 had a smaller volume of gray matter and the cortical thickness in comparison that were exposed to less exposure levels.
“The results of this study, although exploratory, suggest that where you live and the air you breathe may affect the way your brain develops,” says Travis Beckwith, lead author of the study. And, he adds, “although this loss is much less than what could be seen in a degenerative disease, it may be enough to influence the development of several physical and mental processes».
Gray matter includes brain regions involved in motor control and sensory perception, how to see and hear. The cortical thickness reflects the outer depth of the gray matter. The work found that specific regions in the frontal and parietal lobes and the cerebellum were affected with decreases of the order of 3 to 4 percent.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to obtain anatomical images of the brain from 147 children of 12 years. These children are part of Cincinnati Children’s Air Allergy and Pollution Study (CCAAPS), which recruited volunteers before they turned six months of age to examine early childhood exposure to related air pollution with traffic and its consequences on health.
Previous studies on traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and developmental disorders neurological. This work supports that this type of contamination changes the structure of the brain in the initial phases of life.