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Exposure to air pollution may significantly increase risk of depression, reveals study

The study, published in the journal PNAS on Monday, incorporated scientific data on air pollution, neuroimaging, brain gene expression, and extra data acquired from an international genetic consortium of over 40 nations.

Exposure to air pollution may significantly increase risk of depression reveals study gcw
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New Delhi, First Published Nov 11, 2021, 8:00 PM IST
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According to a first-of-its-kind study, exposure to high-particulate-matter air pollution may considerably raise the risk of depression in healthy persons who have a genetic susceptibility to the condition. The study, published in the journal PNAS on Monday, incorporated scientific data on air pollution, neuroimaging, brain gene expression, and extra data acquired from an international genetic consortium of over 40 nations.

The crucial lesson in this study, according to Hao Yang-Tan of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, is that air pollution alters important cognitive and emotional circuits in the brain by modifying the expression of genes associated with depression. Tan went on to say that more people in polluted places will feel depressed because their genes and the pollution in their surroundings increase the individual impacts of each.

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While depression affects everyone, the researchers found that particular people have a higher risk encoded into their DNA. This inclination does not guarantee that a person will develop depression; nonetheless, it raises their chance over the general population. According to the findings, depression is considerably more likely to develop in otherwise healthy people who have these essential genes and reside in areas with high amounts of particulate matter in the air.

According to Zhi Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the LIBD and the study's primary author, the findings are the first to reveal a direct, neurobiological relationship between air pollution and how the brain processes emotional and cognitive information, as well as risk for depression. According to the researchers, the brain circuits implicated in the impacts of genetic risk and air pollution govern a wide variety of essential thinking, problem-solving, and emotional activities, indicating that air pollution may have extensive brain consequences.

The study enlisted 352 healthy people from Beijing, a city with well-documented daily pollution levels. Participants were genotyped first, after which the researchers estimated each individual's polygenic depression risk score, which is the statistical chance that a person will suffer from depression based only on genes. They next gathered extensive data on each participant's relative exposure to air pollution over the previous six months. The individuals were then put through a series of easy cognitive tasks while scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which revealed which brain areas were active throughout the cognitive processing. 

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The researchers discovered that those with a high genetic risk for depression and increased exposure to the particulate matter had brain function indicated by closer integration with how depression genes worked together. The researchers also discovered that a fraction of the genes responsible for these connections were involved in inflammation, which might lead to new pharmacological insights for reducing the impacts of air pollution on brain function and depression.

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