Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 180–191 | Cite as

Cognitive Effects of Air Pollution Exposures and Potential Mechanistic Underpinnings

  • J. L. Allen
  • C. Klocke
  • K. Morris-Schaffer
  • K. Conrad
  • M. Sobolewski
  • D. A. Cory-SlechtaEmail author
Mechanisms of Toxicity (JR Richardson, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Mechanisms of Toxicity


Purpose of Review

This review sought to address the potential for air pollutants to impair cognition and mechanisms by which that might occur.

Recent Findings

Air pollution has been associated with deficits in cognitive functions across a wide range of epidemiological studies, both with developmental and adult exposures. Studies in animal models are significantly more limited in number, with somewhat inconsistent findings to date for measures of learning, but show more consistent impairments for short-term memory. Potential contributory mechanisms include oxidative stress/inflammation, altered levels of dopamine and/or glutamate, and changes in synaptic plasticity/structure.


Epidemiological studies are consistent with adverse effects of air pollutants on cognition, but additional studies and better phenotypic characterization are needed for animal models, including more precise delineation of specific components of cognition that are affected, as well as definitions of critical exposure periods for such effects and the components of air pollution responsible. This would permit development of more circumscribed hypotheses as to potential behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms.


Air pollution Learning Memory Attention Inflammation Glutamate 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does contain studies with animal subjects performed by the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: •Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. L. Allen
    • 1
  • C. Klocke
    • 1
  • K. Morris-Schaffer
    • 1
  • K. Conrad
    • 1
  • M. Sobolewski
    • 1
  • D. A. Cory-Slechta
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Environmental MedicineUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Box EHSCUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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