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May 18, 2024

Climate Change Poses Growing Threat to Brain Health, Warns Lancet Study

Climate change is poised to negatively impact individuals with brain conditions such as migraine and Alzheimer’s, according to new research published in The Lancet Neurology journal. The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Sanjay Sisodiya from the University College London’s Institute of Neurology, highlights the potential adverse effects of extreme temperatures and significant daily temperature fluctuations driven by climate change on brain health.

Sisodiya explained that night-time temperatures are particularly crucial, as elevated temperatures during the night can disrupt sleep. Sleep disruptions are known to exacerbate various brain conditions. “Poor sleep is known to aggravate a number of brain conditions,” Sisodiya emphasized.

The comprehensive study reviewed 332 papers published globally between 1968 and 2023, examining 19 different nervous system conditions, including stroke, migraine, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. The findings indicated a correlation between higher temperatures or heatwaves and an increased number of admissions, disabilities, or deaths resulting from strokes.

The research also revealed that individuals with dementia are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures and severe weather events such as floods and wildfires. Cognitive impairments can hinder their ability to adapt to sudden environmental changes, increasing their risk of harm.

In addition to physical brain conditions, the team investigated the impact of climate change on several serious yet common psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Sisodiya noted that climate anxiety could be a significant additional influence. “Many brain conditions are associated with a higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, and such multimorbidities can further complicate impacts of climate change and the adaptations necessary to preserve health,” he said.

The study underscores the increasing severity of extreme weather events and the rise in global temperatures, exposing people to worsening environmental conditions. These factors may not have been severe enough to affect brain conditions in earlier studies, necessitating up-to-date research that considers both current and future states of climate change.

Sisodiya emphasized the importance of ongoing, dynamic research to provide relevant information to individuals and organizations. “This work is taking place against a worrying worsening of climatic conditions and it will need to remain agile and dynamic if it is to generate information that is of use to both individuals and organizations,” he stated.

The challenge of forward planning is compounded by the limited number of studies estimating the future consequences of climate change on brain diseases. To address this gap, researchers must continue to explore and project how ongoing climatic shifts will impact brain health.

This pioneering study calls for urgent attention to the intersection of climate change and neurological health, advocating for comprehensive strategies to mitigate risks and protect vulnerable populations. By understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change on brain conditions, we can better prepare for a future where environmental factors play an increasingly significant role in public health.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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