Washington: The latest manifestation of the effects of climate change and global warming is its effect on the human brain. In a report published in Nature Climate Change, an international team of academics explores how research has demonstrated that a changing environment affects how our brains work, and how climate change may impact our brain function in the future. The work is led by the University of Vienna, with contributions from Geneva, New York, Chicago, Washington, Stanford, Exeter in the United Kingdom, and the Max Plank Institute in Berlin. It also looks at how neuroscientists might help to better understand and treat these issues.
Lead author Dr Kimberly C. Doell, of the University of Vienna, said,
We’ve long known that factors in our environment can lead to changes in the brain. Yet we’re only just beginning to look at how climate change, the greatest global threat of our time, might change our brains. Given the increasingly frequent extreme weather events we’re already experiencing, alongside factors such as air pollution, the way we access nature and the stress and anxiety people experience around climate change, it’s crucial that we understand the impact this could all have on our brains. Only then can we start to find ways to mitigate these changes.
Since the 1940s, scientists have known from mouse studies that changing environmental factors can profoundly change the development and plasticity of the brain. This effect as also been seen in humans in research looking at the effects of growing up in poverty, which found disturbances to brain systems, including lack of cognitive stimulation, exposure to toxins, poor nutrition, and heightened childhood stress. While not entirely surprising, this research highlights the profound impact that one’s environment can have on their brain.
Now, the authors are calling for research to explore the impact on the human brain of being exposed to more extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, and hurricanes, and associated forest fires and floods. They believe such events may change brain structure, function, and overall health, and also call for more research to evaluate how this may explain changes in well-being and behaviour. The paper also explores the role that neuroscience can play in influencing the way we think about climate change, our judgments and how we respond.
Dr Mathew White, of the Universities of Exeter and Vienna, is a co-author on the study. He said,
Understanding neural activity that is relevant to motivations, emotions and temporal horizons may help predict behaviour, and improve our understanding of, underlying barriers preventing people from behaving as pro-environmentally as they might wish. Both brain function and climate change are highly complex areas. We need to start seeing them as interlinked, and to take action to protect our brains against the future realities of climate change, and start using our brains better to cope with what is already happening and prevent the worse-case scenarios.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.