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NeuroSmog: Determining the impact of air pollution on the developing brain

kierownik projektu: dr hab. Marcin Szwed, prof. UJ

Agencja finansująca: Foundation for Polish Science 
Program: TEAM-NET
Kwota finansowania: 15 188 967,50 PLN

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 exposure assessment methods and environmental epidemiology to achieve critical advances in understanding the impact of air pollution on the developing brain. We want to answer which neural pathways are damaged by air pollution, in children with ADHD and in children without overt psychological problems. This question will be examined in children aged 10-13. We advance specific hypotheses on how air pollution acts on two key brain regions (basal ganglia and frontoparietal cortex), and propose testing them using a cross-sectional design.
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 Poland allows us to investigate the impact of air pollution at concentrations and ranges greater than studied previously. With superior statistical power and inclusion of longitudinal and prenatal perspectives, our project 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.