The Role of Stress and Stress Reactivity in Mediating Impacts of Air Pollutants on the Brain and Lungs

Brain design
Photo: Fakurian Design / Unsplash
01/01/2019 - 31/12/2020
Mònica Guxens Junyent
Funded by
Health Canada

Air pollution is associated with increased risk of neurological and mental health disorders (e.g. cognitive decline, dementia, depression) even at the relatively low pollutant levels experienced in Canada, but underlying mechanisms are unclear. Stress may be a central unifying mechanism underlying health impacts and susceptibility. We have shown experimentally that ambient particles and ozone provoke a stress response, releasing stress hormones that impact many biological systems. The brain is exquisitely sensitive to stress, and chronic stress exerts profound biochemical and structural effects on the brain that contribute to local and systemic disease processes.

Objective and Methodology

We propose to investigate the role of stress responses in mediating the impacts of pollutant inhalation on the brain and lungs.

We will employ in vivo and in vitro models to examine biological pathways that link pollutant effects in the lungs and systemic circulation to the brain, and in turn, feedback to impact the lungs and other organs. We will use models of low and high stress reactivity to examine how innate differences in stress response may underlie sensitivity to adverse impacts of air pollution on the brain. We will assess stress biomarkers in a human diesel exhaust chamber study to extend laboratory findings to humans.

Knowledge gained will be used to explore stress involvement in associations between air pollution and brain development in a birth cohort. By linking results from experimental models to humans, the proposed work will support the causal basis of epidemiological associations and inform effective risk assessment and management strategies.

Total Funding

$ 1,100,000 CDN

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