Study: Does rising air pollution make people all the more stupid?

Study: Does rising air pollution make people all the more stupid?

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Air pollution affects the mind

Air pollution is on the rise worldwide. Some countries are particularly affected by polluted air. China is one such country. Researchers have now found that chronic pollution from the polluted air is associated with a deterioration in cognitive performance. Older men seem to be particularly badly affected by the negative effects.

In their current study, scientists from internationally renowned Yale University and Peking University found that increased air pollution has a negative impact on cognitive performance. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".

Older men are particularly badly affected

The current investigation was carried out in China. There is extreme air pollution in this country. When analyzing the negative effects of air pollution, doctors found that the damage increased with age. According to the scientists, men with less education were particularly affected.

Study had 20,000 subjects

For the study, the doctors examined and measured the mathematical and verbal skills of 20,000 people over a total of four years. To do this, the researchers asked the test subjects to carry out 24 standardized math tests and 34 word recognition tests. The participants were made up of both women and men. The subjects were retested in 2010 and then in 2014.

What was examined?

In the study, the participants' exposure to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers was measured, the experts explain. However, the scientists did not study the effects of carbon monoxide, ozone or larger particles.

Effects increased with age

The doctors found that the effects of environmental pollution made the participants worse in their language tests with increasing age. Evidence has been found that the negative effects of air pollution on verbal tests are more pronounced in old age, especially among men and less educated people.

Pollution increases the risk of degenerative diseases

Increasing pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, says study author Xi Chen from the Yale School of Public Health. The current study made it possible for the researchers in particular to study the effects of air pollution in advancing age.

What does the deterioration do?

It is not yet known how air pollution worsens cognitive abilities. The identified reduction in cognitive skills could possibly be due to the fact that pollution has a negative impact on the white matter in the brain. This could worsen communication between different regions of the brain, the study authors explain. (as)

Author and source information

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