The effects of road traffic and aircraft noise exposure on children's episodic memory: the RANCH project

Noise Health. 2010 Oct-Dec;12(49):244-54. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.70503.


Previous studies have found that chronic exposure to aircraft noise has a negative effect on children's performance on tests of episodic memory. The present study extended the design of earlier studies in three ways: firstly, by examining the effects of two noise sources, aircraft and road traffic, secondly, by examining exposure-effect relationships, and thirdly, by carrying out parallel field studies in three European countries, allowing cross-country comparisons to be made. A total of 2844 children aged between 8 years 10 months and 12 years 10 months (mean age 10 years 6 months) completed classroom-based tests of cued recall, recognition memory and prospective memory. Questionnaires were also completed by the children and their parents in order to provide information about socioeconomic context. Multilevel modeling analysis revealed aircraft noise to be associated with an impairment of recognition memory in a linear exposure-effect relationship. The analysis also found road traffic noise to be associated with improved performance on cued recall in a linear exposure-effect relationship. No significant association was found between exposure to aircraft noise and cued recall or prospective memory. Likewise, no significant association was found between road traffic noise and recognition or prospective memory. Taken together, these findings indicate that exposure to aircraft noise and road traffic noise can impact on certain aspects of children's episodic memory.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Humans
  • London
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall*
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Spain
  • Students