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Systematic Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00332

Outdoor air pollution and brain structure and function from across childhood to young adulthood: a methodological review of brain MRI studies

  • 1Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, United States

Outdoor air pollution has been recognized as a novel environmental neurotoxin. Studies have begun to use brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to investigate how air pollution may adversely impact developing brains. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate and synthesize the reported evidence from MRI studies on how early-life exposure to outdoor air pollution affects neurodevelopment. Using PubMed and Web of Knowledge, we conducted a systematic search, followed by structural review of original articles with individual-level exposure data and that met other inclusion criteria. Six studies were identified, each sampled from 3 cohorts of children in Spain, The Netherlands, and the United States. All studies included a one-time assessment of brain MRI when children were 6-12 years old. Air pollutants from traffic and/or regional sources, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, elemental carbon, particulate matter (<2.5 or <10 µm), and copper, were estimated prenatally (n=1), during childhood (n=3), or both (n=2), using personal monitoring and urinary biomarkers (n=1), air sampling at schools (n=4), or a land-use regression modeling based on residences (n=2). Associations between exposure and brain were noted, including: smaller white matter surface area (n=1) and microstructure (n=1); region-specific patterns of cortical thinness (n=1) and smaller volumes and/or less density within the caudate (n=3); altered resting-state functional connectivity (n=2) and brain activity to sensory stimuli (n=1). Preliminary findings suggest that outdoor air pollutants may impact MRI brain structure and function, but limitations highlight future studies are necessary that include adolescents and young adults, as well as longitudinal multi-modal MRI outcomes.

Keywords: Air Pollution, development, Brain, Neuroimaging, Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Received: 17 Apr 2019; Accepted: 25 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Herting, Younan, Campbell and Chen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Megan M. Herting, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 90033, California, United States,