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Approved research

The Association of Brain Morphology and Mental Health with Neighborhood Environment

Principal Investigator: Ms Nadine Parker
Approved Research ID: 43688
Approval date: January 28th 2019

Lay summary

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.