Impact of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure on cognitive function and neurodegeneration in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Abstract / Description of output

Introduction: This article documents an emerging body of evidence concerning the neurological effect of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure with regard to cognitive function and increased risk of neurodegeneration.

Methods: Two electronic databases, PubMed and Web of Science, were systematically searched.

Results: The 37/428 studies selected included outcomes measuring cognitive function, neurobehavioral symptoms of impaired cognition, and pathologies associated with neurodegeneration from pre-natal (21/37 studies), childhood (14/37 studies), and adult (8/37 studies) PAH exposure. Sufficient evidence was found surrounding pre-natal exposure negatively impacting child intelligence, mental development, average overall development, verbal IQ, and memory; externalizing, internalizing, anxious, and depressed behaviors; and behavioral development and child attentiveness. Evidence concerning exposure during childhood and as an adult was scarce and highly heterogeneous; however, the presence of neurodegenerative biomarkers and increased concentrations of cryptic “self” antigens in serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples suggest a higher risk of neurodegenerative disease. Associations with lowered cognitive ability and impaired attentiveness were found in children and memory disturbances, specifically auditory memory, verbal learning, and general memory in adults.

Discussion: Although evidence is not yet conclusive and further research is needed, the studies included supported the hypothesis that PAH exposure negatively impacts cognitive function and increases the risk of neurodegeneration in humans, and recommends considering the introduction of a variable “rural vs. urban” as covariate for adjusting analyses, where the neurological functions affected (as result of our review) are outcome variables.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1052333
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2023

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