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Study: Air Pollution Also Affects Cognitive Function, Triggering Depression Among People Genetically Predisposed to the Disorder

A new study published in the journal PNAS showed that exposure to high-particulate-matter air pollution could significantly increase the risk of depression among healthy individuals with a genetic predisposition for the disorder. Researchers combined data of neuroimaging, air pollution, brain gene expression, and other scientific data from over 40 countries to come up with a conclusion.



Genes and air pollution increase the risk of developing depression among healthy individuals. (Photo: Pixabay)


Role of Genetics in Depression

A person’s genes may indicate a risk for developing depression. But as VeryWellMind reported, genetics is not the only factor to consider who will develop the disorder. In fact, there is no number one cause for depression because anyone can have it whether they are genetically predisposed or not.

Some studies suggest that those who have a first-degree relative, like parents, and siblings, diagnosed with depression have three times the likelihood of being diagnosed with the disorder in their lifetime compared to the general population.

However, it is important to note that these studies do not account for those who develop depression without a family history. There are still other factors that could contribute to the risk, like the new study that combines genetics and environmental factors.

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Neurological Link Between Air Pollution and Depression

According to Technology Networks, neuroscientists at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD), on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, and Peking University in China found that air pollution does not only impact climate change as it also affects how the brain works.

Study co-author Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger said that air pollution may also cause depression and discovering that may just be the tip of the iceberg. He explained that the challenge in medicine today is understanding the link between genes and the environment and how they interact with each other.

Lead author Dr. Hao Yang Tan added that the key message of their study is to show that air pollution affects important cognitive and emotional circuitry in the brain as it changes gene expressions responsible for depression.

Interestingly, more people living in high portion areas are expected to become depressed because of the interaction between their genes and environment, exaggerating each factors’ individual effects.

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