Pollution is known to be a significant risk factor when it comes to human health, and a new study has found that the environmental factor could increase risk of depression and brain damage.
A new study out of Ohio State University exposed mice to simulated pollution similar to that “created by cars, factories and natural dust” over time and measured the effects of the pollutants on brain function. Doctoral student Laura Fonken and her colleagues exposed the animals to the polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week. (A control group received filtered air.) The study lasted for half their life span, or 10 months.
At the end of the study, the mice were subjected to testing to determine how their reasoning abilities were impacted:
[The mice were given a] learning and memory test where after five days of training they were placed on a brightly lit area and given two minutes to find the dark escape hole where they would be more comfortable. The mice who breathed the polluted air took longer to learn where the escape hole was and at later tests they were more likely to forget where it was.
In another experiment, mice exposed to the polluted air showed more depressive-like and higher levels of anxiety-like behaviours in one test, but not in another.
Fonken theorized long-term exposure to inflammation could damage the hippocampus, causing the symptoms in the mice.