Poor Neighbourhoods Might Have Impact On One's Health: Study
In this study, researchers examined the brain's cortex in great depth to ascertain how living in an impoverished area can alter particular regions of the brain that perform distinct roles. Previous studies have shown that living in an underprivileged neighbourhood can have an impact on brain health
Researchers revealed that environments that discourage physical activity, poor food quality, and increased consumption of calories from foods high in trans-fatty acids, all of which are common in underprivileged areas, disturb the brain's ability to process information in a flexible manner, which is crucial for cognition, emotion control, and reward.
In this study, researchers examined the brain's cortex in great depth to ascertain how living in an impoverished area can alter particular regions of the brain that perform distinct roles. Previous studies have shown that living in an underprivileged neighbourhood can have an impact on brain health.
"We found that neighbourhood disadvantage was associated with differences in the fine structure of the cortex of the brain.
Some of these differences were linked to higher body mass index and correlated with high intake of the trans-fatty acids found in fried fast food," said Arpana Gupta, PhD, co-Director of the Goodman-Luskin Center and Director of the Neuroimaging Core.
"Our results suggest that regions of the brain involved in reward, emotion, and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding might be affected by aspects of neighbourhood disadvantage that contribute to obesity," said Gupta, senior author.
"This highlights the importance of addressing dietary quality issues in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to protect brain health."
Neighbourhood disadvantage is defined by a combination of such factors as low median income, low education level, crowding, and lack of complete plumbing. This study included 92 participants, 27 men and 65 women, from the greater Los Angeles area.
Demographic and body mass index information was collected, and neighbourhood disadvantage was assessed as to its area deprivation index (ADI) using the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine's Public Health's Neighborhood Atlas.
Earlier studies have found that people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are at higher risk of obesity due to the poor quality of available foods, increased intake of calories from foods high in trans-fatty acids, and environments that do not foster physical activity.
In this study, researchers focused on the relationship between ADI and neuroimaging results at four levels of the brain cortex to investigate in more refined detail the connections between neighbourhood disadvantage and brain structure. Participants underwent two types of MRI scans that, when analysed in combination, provide insights into brain structure, signalling and function.
"Different populations of cells exist in different layers of the cortex, where there are different signalling mechanisms and information-processing functions," said Lisa Kilpatrick, PhD, a researcher in the Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center focusing on brain signatures related to brain-body dysregulation, the study's first author.
"Examining the microstructure at different cortical levels provides a better understanding of alterations in cell populations, processes and communication routes that may be affected by living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood."
According to the results, worse ADI ratings were associated with communication changes in brain regions that are important for social interaction. Other changes occurred in regions involved in reward, emotion regulation, and higher cognitive processes - and these changes appeared to be affected by trans-fatty acid intake.
Together, the findings suggest that factors prevalent in disadvantaged neighbourhoods that encourage poor diet and unhealthy weight gain "disrupt the flexibility of information processing involved in reward, emotion regulation, and cognition." (ANI)