Breathing in dirty air damages our lungs, but new research is showing it might change how we think, too.
A study published earlier this week in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences found that long-term exposure to particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide led to cognitive declines in study participants as they aged. Less-educated men were particularly impacted and had low verbal and math test scores.
Scientists and health officials are still working to discern exactly how air pollutants interact with the brain.
“We speculate that air pollution probably puts greater damage on the white matter in the brain, which is associated with language ability,” says Xin Zhang, a study author and researcher at Beijing Normal University's school of statistics.