Principal Investigator: Ms Nadine Parker
Bloorview Research Institute (Canada)Tags: 43688, air pollution, Brain, Income Inequality, inflammation, mental health, stress
The social and physical environments play a role in the variability of brain structure as well as the development and prevalence of mental disorders. In particular, the socioeconomic environment, neighbourhood mean income and income-inequality, can serve as a stressor impacting brain health. Moreover, one’s physical neighbourhood environment can result in exposures that impact the brain. Air pollution is a growing concern in today’s societies especially from an environmental perspective. Pollution can impact the brain resulting in alterations in brain structure and increasing the risk for mental disorders. Therefore, the aim of this investigation is to determine the association between neighbourhood socioeconomic indicators and exposure to air pollution with brain structure and function.Income and Income-inequality are related to altered brain structure and rates of mental illness. It is thought that stress may be the mechanism by which this relationship takes hold. Therefore, we will investigate how exposure to these potential neighbourhood stressors may alter the brain and mental health in individuals of the UK Biobank. All individuals around the world are exposed to varying degrees of air pollution. Pollution is not only harmful to the environment but to our brains and bodies as well.Pollutants in the air can trigger brain inflammation and result in brain structure alterations akin to Alzheimer’s as well as lead to potential risk of mental illness. It is for these reasons air pollution is a growing concern for brain health and we propose to study this relationship further in our investigation. To carry out this project, we will require data from the full UK Biobank sample with access for approximately 3 years. Ultimately this investigation will aid in the understanding of how the human social and physical environment impact brain structure and function.
The environment, both social and physical, impacts human brain structure and function. To date, investigation into the relationships between environment and the brain has been heavily focused on large geographic areas (cities, states, countries), rather than neighbourhood-level exposures. Also, there has been no investigation of a general psychopathology factor in association with environmental exposures. Therefore, we aim to (1) investigate associations between neighbourhood-level stressors and several brain-related outcomes, and (2) investigate potential underlying mechanisms of these associations. We will investigate two neighbourhood-level stressors: socio-economic and environmental. The former will include income inequality and mean income, and the latter will include local air pollution. Brain-related outcomes will include structural morphology, which we will derive from T1-weighted brain MRIs, and a general psychopathology factor, which we will derive from questionnaires on mental health symptoms. To investigate underlying stress and inflammatory mechanisms, mediating roles of indicators such as stressful/traumatic life events, individual socioeconomic status, and blood levels of inflammatory markers (e.g., C-reactive protein) will be tested. Ultimately, this project will allow for a better understanding of how the human brain and behaviour is shaped by the environment.
In addition to our original research scope, we hope to elucidate the genetic and molecular architecture of psychopathology (and related traits) in relation to ones social environment. Any polygenic scores and/or new phenotypes derived from the provided genetic data will be returned to the UK Biobank.
Last updated Sep 16, 2019