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Air pollution and brain health

defining the research agenda

Russ, Tom C.a,b,c,d; Reis, Stefane,f; van Tongeren, Martieg

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: March 2019 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 97–104
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000480
NEUROCOGNITIVE DISORDERS: Edited by Perminder S. Sachdev and Michael Valenzuela

Purpose of review The literature on air pollution and brain health is rapidly expanding and it is a universal finding that greater exposure to air pollution is associated with worse outcomes, whatever the measure of brain health used (clinical dementia, neuroimaging correlates, or cognitive impairment). However, there are a number of important questions which the studies currently published are not able to answer: when in the life course does exposure to air pollution most have the most impact?; which pollutant(s) or components are most important?; and since dementia describes a heterogeneous group of conditions, which is most affected by exposure to air pollution?

Recent findings We briefly review and discuss the nine articles which have been published so far in 2018, so recently that they were not included in the four review articles also published this year. We highlight the variation in estimates of air pollution used but the consistency in deriving them from residential address (with or without some knowledge of an individual's previous home locations).

Summary We are now at the stage when the research agenda needs to be agreed and we believe these three questions should be the focus of future research.

aAlzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre

bCentre for Cognitive Ageing & Cognitive Epidemiology

cCentre for Dementia Prevention

dDivision of Psychiatry, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh

eCentre for Ecology & Hydrology, Penicuik

fUniversity of Exeter Medical School, Truro

gCentre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Correspondence to Dr Tom C. Russ, Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK. Tel: +44 0 131 650 4340; e-mail:

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