Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New evidence links air pollution to autism, schizophrenia

Date:
June 5, 2014
Source:
University of Rochester Medical Center
Summary:
A new study describes how exposure to air pollution early in life produces harmful changes in the brains of mice, including an enlargement of part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia. The mice performed poorly in tests of short-term memory, learning ability, and impulsivity. Study authors say the findings are very suggestive that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders.

New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center describes how exposure to air pollution early in life produces harmful changes in the brains of mice, including an enlargement of part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Rochester Medical Center

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives describes how exposure to air pollution early in life produces harmful changes in the brains of mice, including an enlargement of part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia.

As in autism and schizophrenia, the changes occurred predominately in males. The mice also performed poorly in tests of short-term memory, learning ability, and impulsivity.

The new findings are consistent with several recent studies that have shown a link between air pollution and autism in children. Most notably, a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry reported that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution during their first year of life were three times as likely to develop autism. "Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders," said Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study.

In three sets of experiments, Cory-Slechta and her colleagues exposed mice to levels of air pollution typically found in mid-sized U.S. cities during rush hour. The exposures were conducted during the first two weeks after birth, a critical time in the brain's development. The mice were exposed to polluted air for four hours each day for two four-day periods.

In one group of mice, the brains were examined 24 hours after the final pollution exposure. In all of those mice, inflammation was rampant throughout the brain, and the lateral ventricles -- chambers on each side of the brain that contain cerebrospinal fluid -- were enlarged two-to-three times their normal size.

"When we looked closely at the ventricles, we could see that the white matter that normally surrounds them hadn't fully developed," said Cory-Slechta. "It appears that inflammation had damaged those brain cells and prevented that region of the brain from developing, and the ventricles simply expanded to fill the space."

The problems were also observed in a second group of mice 40 days after exposure and in another group 270 days after exposure, indicating that the damage to the brain was permanent. Brains of mice in all three groups also had elevated levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter, which is also seen in humans with autism and schizophrenia.

Most air pollution is made up mainly of carbon particles that are produced when fuel is burned by power plants, factories, and cars. For decades, research on the health effects of air pollution has focused on the part of the body where its effects are most obvious -- the lungs. That research began to show that different-sized particles produce different effects. Larger particles -- the ones regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- are actually the least harmful because they are coughed up and expelled. But many researchers believe that smaller particles known as ultrafine particles -- which are not regulated by the EPA -- are more dangerous, because they are small enough to travel deep into the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream, where they can produce toxic effects throughout the body.

That assumption led Cory-Slechta to design a set of experiments that would show whether ultrafine particles have a damaging effect on effect on the brain, and if so, to reveal the mechanism by which they inflict harm. Her study published today is the first scientific work to do both.

"I think these findings are going to raise new questions about whether the current regulatory standards for air quality are sufficient to protect our children," said Cory-Slechta.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joshua L. Allen, Xiufang Liu, Sean Pelkowski, Brian Palmer, Katherine Conrad, Günter Oberdörster, Douglas Weston, Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Deborah A. Cory-Slechta. Early Postnatal Exposure to Ultrafine Particulate Matter Air Pollution: Persistent Ventriculomegaly, Neurochemical Disruption, and Glial Activation Preferentially in Male Mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2014; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1307984

Cite This Page:

University of Rochester Medical Center. "New evidence links air pollution to autism, schizophrenia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605155722.htm>.
University of Rochester Medical Center. (2014, June 5). New evidence links air pollution to autism, schizophrenia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605155722.htm
University of Rochester Medical Center. "New evidence links air pollution to autism, schizophrenia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605155722.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

Raw: Protesters Stage Wall Street Climate Sit-in

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A day after over 100,000 people marched against climate change, more than 1,000 activists blocked parts of Manhattan's financial district. Over 100 people, including a person wearing a white polar bear suit, were arrested Monday night. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday warned about the potential "catastrophe" if global warming was not dealt with in a "powerful" way. Duration: 01:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — After a year of poor rains and heavy fighting Somalia is again at risk of famine, just three years after food shortages killed 260,000 people. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins