Seven years of living in a polluted atmosphere ages the brain by one year

How does air pollution affect a cognitive abilities? Researchers at Brown University (USA) have analyzed the results of two studies to find an answer to this question. Both studies involved residents of Manhattan, New York: the first involved 5,330 people (mean age 75 years) who were observed for seven years and had their cognitive abilities tested every 18 months; the second involved 1,1093 people (mean age 70 years) who were observed for five years and had their cognitive abilities assessed twice before and after the study. 

Scientists estimated the degree of air pollution by the concentration of nitrogen dioxide and two types of small particles with diameters less than 10 microns and less than 2.5 microns. In both studies, the participants were divided into four groups according to the degree of air pollution in their area of residence. Cognitive tests included assessment of memory, language skills, and thinking skills such as ability to organize, plan and perform tasks. 

The most significant alterations were found in participants in the first group: subjects living in areas of high pollution experienced a significant decrease in cognitive ability, as well as a high rate of deterioration in test results. Observation of the group from the first study found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide on cognitive abilities over a seven-year period of observation accelerated brain aging by one year. At the same time, the second group did not find such a clear correlation between air pollution and decreased cognitive ability. According to scientists, this may be due to a smaller number of participants, a shorter observation period. 

The experts called the results of the first study more informative: a large number of participants, a long observation period and regular tests to monitor the decline in cognitive ability in real time, provide an opportunity to draw conclusions about the negative impact of pollution on the brain. 

April 20, 2020, 9:28 a.m.

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