High levels of air pollution could be causing brain loss in humans, according to a report in the Annals of Neurobiology.
By studying the brains of over a thousand women aged between 71 and 89, the researchers at the University of Southern Carolina found a higher rate of brain matter disappearance among those living in highly polluted areas.
The part of the brain in danger was found to be white matter, which is responsible for transmitting messages between different parts of the brain. Recent studies suggest it affects how we learn and how quickly we respond to events, by controlling coordination and the firing of action potentials.
It's not known for sure whether these findings could be extended to females of a younger age or males, but the results suggest it's a possibility.
"Investigating the impact of air pollution on the human brain is a new area of environmental neurosciences,” said Dr Jiu-Chiuan Chen, lead author of the report.
Our study provides the convincing evidence that several parts of the aging brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-term exposure to fine particles in the ambient air.