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Pollution in cities shrinks the brains of older men and damages their reasoning and language skills


658 days ago   Article ID# 4108326
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LONDON, U K (dailymail.co.uk) - While you might associate air pollution with respiratory issues, a new study has shown that it could also have damaging effects on the brain.

The study indicates that air pollution can affect mental abilities by shrinking white matter in the brain.

Older men appear to be affected the worst, with results showing that loss of brain power for these men could be the equivalent to losing a year of education.

The findings come from a new study by researchers at Yale University and Peking University, Beijing.

Men living in cities with high pollution levels seem to lose their abilities in both logical and verbal reasoning, at a faster rate than women.

Researchers suggest that this difference between the sexes could be caused by structural differences in the brain that may leave men more vulnerable to shrinkage of white matter.

The researchers looked at the performance of 25,485 people in China on both maths and language exams in 2010 and 2014.

Results from the exams showed that young men and women did equally well up to the age of 30, while later in adulthood, men did notably better than women.

But in the most polluted cities, the scores of older men plummeted, especially on the language exams.

The Air Quality Index measures three different kinds of pollutants and runs from 0 to 500.

The results showed that for every extra 10 units on this index, the average man lost 2.1 per cent more of his cognitive ability than a woman of the same age in the area.

In their paper, published on EconStor, the researchers, led by Dr Xi Chen, said: 'Contemporaneous and cumulative exposure to air pollution significantly lowers both the verbal and math test scores of survey subjects.

'In general, men perform worse than women when exposed to the same dose of air pollution.

'The gender difference is more salient among the old and less educated in both tests.'

But not everyone is convinced by the results.

Professor Barbara Maher, a researcher at the Centre for Environmental Magnetismam and Palaeomagnetism at Lancaster University, told The Times: 'This paper suggests some gender differences in the impacts of air pollution on brain white matter and grey matter, but the measures of air pollution exposure are very broad-brush.'

The researchers from Yale and Peking Universities note that further studies are needed to verify their findings.

In the paper, they added: 'We hypothesise that differences in brain composition may help explain why men appear more sensitive to the negative effects of air pollution.

'It is beyond the scope of this paper to formally test this mechanism. We leave it as a future research topic.'

Copyright 2019 dailymail.co.uk   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 658 days ago   Article ID# 4108326


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