New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center describes how exposure to air pollution early in life produces harmful changes in the brains of mice, including an enlargement of part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia.
The changes occurred predominately in males. The mice also performed poorly in tests of short-term memory, learning ability, and impulsivity.
Researchers say that the new findings are consistent with several recent studies that have shown a link between air pollution and autism in children. A 2013 study reported that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution during their first year of life were three times as likely to develop autism.
“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Deborah Cory-Slechta, professor of Environmental Medicine at URMC.