A review of epidemiological studies on neuropsychological effects of air pollution

Swiss Med Wkly. 2012 Jan 3;142:w13322. doi: 10.57187/smw.2012.13322. eCollection 2012.


The aim of the present review is to provide an update of the epidemiological evidence of the effects of air pollution on neuropsychological development and impairment, as well as of the evidence on individual susceptibility to these effects. Animal studies have shown deposition of ultrafine particles containing metals in olfactory bulb and frontal cortical and subcortical areas, and overexpression of inflammatory responses, white matter lesions and vascular pathology in these areas that could be the basis for functional and structural brain effects. Several observational studies in the general population have observed cognitive deficits and behavioural impairment in children and the elderly. These effects, however, are not conclusive given the limited number of studies, their small size and their methodological constraints.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / adverse effects
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Metals, Heavy / adverse effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Particulate Matter