JAN 16, 2020 9:37 PM PST

Early-life Stress and Pollution Lead to Cognitive Impairment

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Children exposed to high levels of stress at home from early on and high levels of air pollution while still in the womb are more likely to develop attention span and thought problems, such as obsessive thoughts, later in life, according to new research from the University of Colombia. 

According to senior author of the research Amy Margolis, “Air pollutants are common in our environment, particularly in cities, and given socioeconomic inequities and environmental injustice, children growing up in disadvantaged circumstances are more likely to experience both life stress and exposure to neurotoxic chemicals.”

For the study, the researchers collected data from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns longitudinal birth cohort study in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. Including many participants who identify as African American and Dominican, mothers were asked to wear air monitoring backpacks during their third trimester of pregnancy to measure their daily exposure to air pollutants. 

Then, when their children reached 5 years old, the same mothers were asked to report on the amount of stress they experienced, including metrics such as neighborhood quality, material hardship, intimate partner violence, perceived stress and levels of social support. These metrics were then reported every two years until the child reached 11 years old. 

In their results, the researchers found that when combined, air pollution and early life stress had a significant impact on several measures of thought and attention problems on children by age 11. In their study, they say that both factors may serve as a “double hit” on shared biological pathways that interconnect attention and thought problems. While it is assumed that stress likely leads to changes in epigenetic expression, cortisol levels, rates of inflammation and thus brain structure and function, how exactly air pollution may affect the brain is still unknown. 

Julie Herbstman, associate professor of environmental health science at the University of Columbia said, “These exposures have a combined effect on poor mental health outcomes and point to the importance of public health programs that try to lessen exposure to these critical risk factors, to improve not only physical, but psychological health.”

 

Sources: News Medical, Wiley Online Library and Science Daily  

About the Author
Other
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
DEC 02, 2022
Neuroscience
Scientists Identify Distinct Brain Networks Associated with Risk and Resilience in Depression
Scientists Identify Distinct Brain Networks Associated with Risk and Resilience in Depression
A study published in Brain found a link between the location of brain injury to levels of depression in patients followi ...
DEC 20, 2022
Technology
Handheld ultrasound device for pain management
Handheld ultrasound device for pain management
The National Institutes of Health is currently hosting a program searching for new medical devices that could help treat ...
JAN 04, 2023
Clinical & Molecular DX
Dual-Action Cancer Vaccine Targets Brain Tumors Directly
Dual-Action Cancer Vaccine Targets Brain Tumors Directly
Scientists have developed a new, targeted strategy to eliminate brain tumors and prevent future recurrences of brain can ...
JAN 12, 2023
Drug Discovery & Development
Blood Pressure Drug Could Treat PTSD in Veterans
Blood Pressure Drug Could Treat PTSD in Veterans
A drug used to treat blood pressure and ADHD may be able to mitigate PTSD symptoms. The corresponding study was publishe ...
JAN 20, 2023
Neuroscience
Bugs on the Brain - Gut Microbes Affect Neurodegeneration
Bugs on the Brain - Gut Microbes Affect Neurodegeneration
While it may not be surprising the gut microbes can affect gut health, gut microbes are also thought to influence neurod ...
JAN 29, 2023
Cannabis Sciences
How Cannabis Consumption Impacts the Oral Microbiome
How Cannabis Consumption Impacts the Oral Microbiome
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gave Medical University of South Carolina researchers $3.7 million to study ...
Loading Comments...