According to the World Health Organization,Air pollution around us causes more than 4 million premature deaths each year. Minor and largely familiar (especially for large cities) exhaust fumes, microscopic dust particles and other polluting agents undoubtedly negatively affect our health. But how do they affect the brain? More recently, a group of scientists from the University of Maryland managed to find out.
Why polluted air affects the brain
Components of polluted airare a mixture of particles, each of which in size does not exceed 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Once in the lungs, these particles mainly settle there, but they are so small that they can penetrate the bloodstream and spread thanks to a developed system of blood vessels in all our organs and tissues. As you know, almost all the cells in our body are constantly being updated, so the effect on most organs is leveled to some extent.
As soon as you inhale polluted air, youendanger yourself, says one of the study's authors, Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges. Contaminant particles are small enough to freely cross the blood-brain barrier (editorial note - this is a barrier that prevents bacteria and toxins from entering the brain). In addition, when inhaled through the nose, small particles can enter the brain through the olfactory nerve in the nasal cavity.
But in the brain there is a system for “cleansing frompollution. " These are immune cells of the nervous system called microglia. Microglia cells absorb harmful particles, thereby “deactivating” them. However, microglia cannot remove all particles. And over time, they accumulate in the brain. These particles can cause inflammation in the future, which can lead to serious brain disorders. Moreover, since we are exposed to polluted air from early childhood, some manifestations of these processes can be recorded already in children.
How polluted air affects children
In a recent study, a team of scientistsexamined how the effects of air pollution can affect the developing brain and mental health of children. Experts analyzed 145 MRI scans of 12-year-old children and used their residential addresses to assess how much they live in an area with polluted air. Researchers also took into account demographic, racial and other factors in order to make sure that such things are not related to the phenomena studied.
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As a result, it turned out that there is a directrelationship between exposure to polluted air and symptoms of anxiety disorders. Children living in areas with more polluted air were more likely to have symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Moreover, these children had an increased concentration of a substance called myo-inositol in the area of the brain that is responsible for the emotional state. Normally, this substance is present in our body in a small amount, and some experts attribute the increase in its concentration to the development of anxiety disorders and impaired cognitive functions.
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