Loss of Brain Tissue in Older Women May Be Linked to Air Pollution

June 23, 2015

Researchers may have discovered a link between the loss of brain tissue and air pollution. Their research appears in the June 15 issue of the Annals of Neurology. The findings could help explain how the brain ages and functions in older women who lived in regions with greater airborne levels of coarse particles.

Ramon Casanova, Ph.D., and Mark Espeland, Ph.D., co-authors of the study and researchers in Biostatistical Sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center joined other scientists across the country in the study including the lead author from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), researchers found that older women who lived in these regions, such as found near roadways and dusty industries, had smaller regions of the brain that are related to memory and attention.

Casanova said these differences could not be explained by other factors related to brain health. He said this relationship may help to explain why rates of cognitive decline in older women vary across the country.

The WHIMS study began in 1996 at Wake Forest Baptist for the purpose of studying how postmenopausal hormone treatment affects cognitive impairment and brain aging.

Read the Annals of Neurology study here.

View the Keck School of Medicine of USC news release here.


Media Relations

Marguerite Beck: marbeck@wakehealth.edu, 336-716-2415

Mac Ingraham: mingraha@wakehealth.edu, 336-716-3487