The Mind and Environment Center is established in the Institute of Psychology of the Jagiellonian University (JU). Its key objectives are: to bridge the scientific study of the mind with the scientific study of environmental epidemiology, to conduct the Neurosmog project, and to establish an epidemiological research programme at the JU.
The NeuroSmog is funded by the a 3.5M EUR grant awarded by the Foundation for Polish Science (Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej, FNP). It combines four scientific teams in the fields of pollution assessment, child psychology, neuroimaging and epidemiology with the common goal of determining the impact of ambient air pollution on the developing brain in school age children. Neurosmog endeavors to investigate the effects of air pollution on behavioural and neural changes in school-age children.
Two its teams, including the SzwedLab and a newly established Epidemiology team led by an outstanding epidemiologist leader recruited in an open competition, will be based in the Institute of Psychology. The other two teams are based in the JU Institute of Applied Psychology (child psychology), and in the Institute of Environmental Protection (Instytut Ochrony Środowiska) in Warsaw (air pollution assessment, led by Kryszsztof Skotak). Its steering committee includes eminent environmental epidemiologists and neuroscientists, notably prof. Jordi Sunyer, prof. Frank Kelly, prof. Serena Counsell, prof. Frank Ramus, and prof. Michał‚ Krzyżanowski.
Air pollution causes illness and premature death. While its impact on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer and perinatal effects is well understood, much less is known about its effects on the brain. Only recently, brain imaging studies have begun to uncover pollutants' role in disorders such as autism or ADHD. We want to combine state-of-the art MRI neuroimaging, cutting-edge psychological assessment methods, cutting-edge exposure assessment methods and environmental epidemiology to achieve critical advances in understanding the impact of air pollution on the developing brain.
The few neuroimaging air pollution studies conducted to date were done in cities with relatively clean air. As a consequence, most likely they were underpowered. Performing this work in southern Poland allows us to investigate the impact of air pollution at concentrations and ranges greater than studied previously. With superior statistical power, NeuroSmog has the potential to find specific novel effects as yet unexplored in previous studies, leading to critical breakthroughs. Its powerful design will provide new knowledge to researchers and clinicians engaged in prevention and treatment of neurobehavioral disorders, and strengthen the evidence base for shaping of effective public policy.