Previous studies have already suggested that very small particles, called nanoparticles, breathed in from polluted air can end up in the brain. But this is the first time that scientists have demonstrated that inhalation actually alters brain activity.
Ten volunteers spent one hour in a room filled with either clean air or exhaust from a diesel engine. They were wired up to an electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine that records the electrical signals of the brain, and their brain waves were monitored during the exposure period and for one hour after they left the room.
The researchers found that after about 30 minutes the diesel exhaust began to affect brain activity. The EEG data suggested that the brain displayed a stress response, indicative of changed information processing in the brain cortex, which continued to increase even after the subjects had left the exposure chamber.
The concentration of diesel exhaust that the subjects breathed was set to the highest level that people might encounter in the environment or at work, for example on a busy road or in a garage.
Lead researcher Paul Borm from Zuyd University in The Netherlands said: “We believe our findings are due to an effect nanoparticles or ‘soot’ particles that are major component of diesel exhaust. These may penetrate to the brain and affect brain function. We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high.”
One link to understanding the mechanism of this effect is that oxidative stress is one consequence of particles depositing in tissue and oxidative stress has also been implicated in degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease . “It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing,” noted Borm. “Further studies are necessary to explore this effect, and to assess the relationship between the amount of exposure to particles and the brain's response and, and investigate the clinical implications of these novel findings.”
Studies that expose volunteers to potential toxins or require invasive techniques are limited for ethical reasons. Borm is currently conducting experiments where volunteers inhale artificially generated nanoparticles that are free from the other chemicals that are generated, along with the nanoparticles in diesel exhaust.
Charlotte Webber | alfa
Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?
21.09.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital
Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex
21.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.09.2017 | Life Sciences
21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine