Under the Hood

How Does Pollution Affect Our Brain?

Losing your sense of smell? You may have been starting to experience the effects of exposure to poor air quality, which could lead to higher risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. 

That is according to a new study published in the journal eLife. The latest findings back previous research that suggested a reduced sense of smell can be an early sign of developing neurological conditions, Medical News Today reported Tuesday

Researchers from Penn State University studied how pollution triggers development of the diseases through the air we breathe. The latest study focused on the link between poor air quality and the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the body. 

This fluid commonly appears around the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Previous studies suggested that CSF serves as a “cushion” that protect the system. 

The Penn State study shows that the fluid also helps in the flow of waste out of the brain and spinal column area, according to Patrick Drew, study author and a professor at Penn State. CSF helps drain the materials out through the nose.

“I was trying to label cerebrospinal fluid with a dye for another experiment,” Jordan Norwood, study author and a graduate student from Penn State, said. “We started seeing this dyed cerebrospinal fluid drain out through the nose.”

Parkinson's and Alzheimer's have been linked to damaged proteins in the body. The researchers found that air pollution could disrupt the flow of CSF that helps remove the faulty materials from the body. 

"Reduced CSF turnover may be a contributing factor to the buildup of toxic metabolites and proteins that cause neurodegenerative disorders," the researchers said. 

In experiments with mice, the research team found that air pollution affects the flow of CSF in the nose by damaging olfactory sensory neurons, which leads to poor sense of smell. However, they noted further study is required to confirm their findings. 

"Next we would like to collaborate with a lab in the Materials Research Institute that is working with soot or jet fuel particles to see if we get the same effect," Norwood said. 

Air Pollution Long term exposure to air pollution is widely known to worsen asthma and reduce lung function. Pixabay