The Connection Between Neurological Disorders And the Rising Temperatures Brought About By Climate Change

The Conversation

Scientists have looked for connections between the effects of global warming on brain health. They recently made a systematic review that looked into and analyzed the impact of increasing ambient temperatures on those who suffer from neurological disorders. They saw that the rising ambient temperatures were linked to the exacerbated symptoms and increased hospitalization and mortality rates in those with neurological disorders.

The study also looked into the comparison between the occurrence of neurological disorders in migrants with non-migrants. They did this in order to assess the potential impact of climate-related migration on the health of the brain. They found that these effects of migration on neurological disorders were varied. On the other hand, socioeconomic, cultural, and genetic factors may have played a role on the incidence of brain disorders.


The Review Made

According to a joint editorial published by over 200 medical journals earlier, the greatest threat when it comes to global public health is climate change. There are other big public health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) who have also expressed the same concerns about the public.

So, what exactly is climate change? This includes surging temperatures, rising sea levels, and an increase in the strength and frequency of extreme weather events. As you can see, flooding, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires have become more intense and a lot deadlier. Moreover, climate change can affect health in people in a variety of ways. Rising temperatures, food scarcity, air pollution, and an increase in infectious diseases – these are just some of the many concerns that may affect a person’s health.

The health effects that come with climate can be complicated, and these are only partially understood by humans. In order for healthcare professionals to identify the right kind of assistance, they need a more comprehensive understanding of what is happening. Hence, a recent systematic review was recently made. The goal of these researchers was to delineate the impact of global warming on neurological disorders. In order to make this possible, the study made went into analysis of previous research that looked closely into the effects of ambient temperature rises on the occurrence, clinical manifestations, and mortality that has been brought about by major neurological disorders.

Because of climate change, some parts of the world have become uninhabitable. These have been affected by drought, rising temperatures, and other extreme weather events. If this happens at a wider scale, there will be a mass displacement of populations, which leads to the rising numbers of environmental refugees.

The study made also analyzed research by making an assessment at the occurrence of neurological disorders that happen in migrant populations. They did so in order to understand the potential impact on the brain health of climate-related refugees. The results showed how a rise in ambient temperature that was brought about by global warming may worsen symptoms of neurological disorders. In turn, these result in higher hospitalization and mortality rates. The effects of migration on how neurological disorders occur were more variable. The researchers also had to consider social, cultural, and economic factors, as these were also what influenced the occurrence.

The authors of the study also acknowledged the fact that the results were preliminary, and that the analysis did not specifically target to evaluate the impact of climate change on neurological disorders and clinical practice.

The study’s lead author, Daniel Kondziella, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, spoke to Medical News Today and said,  “[This study shows that] there are very good reasons to expect a tremendous negative impact on global brain health within the near future owing to climate change. […] At the same time, there appears to be a fundamental lack of awareness of this problem within the neurological community, as evidenced by the complete absence of appropriately designed research to investigate this problem.” The details of the study appear in the journal PeerJ.

High Ambient Temperature

In order to fully comprehend the effects of global warming on brain disorders, the researchers behind the present study read previous research that talked about how the impact of ambient temperature increases the manifestation of symptoms of major neurological disorders. They analyzed analyzed the written work by linking the association between ambient temperature and hospitalization and mortality rates because of these said neurological disorders.

The team examined several neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, migraine, epilepsy, and lastly, stroke. They also considered the tick-borne encephalitis as an example of an infectious disease that affected the nervous system. In total, they were able to review 84 studies. The saw how higher ambient temperatures were associated with worse outcomes for those who suffer from neurological diseases or disorders.

For example, multiple studies saw how higher ambient temperatures were connected with more adverse symptoms. These included irritability, anxiety, depression, and agitation, in those with Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s dementia.

Also, an increase in ambient temperatures was linked to the decline in cognitive performance and motor function in sufferers of multiple sclerosis. These elevated temperatures also increased the risk of hospitalization and mortality rates of those who suffered from dementia and stroke.

They also saw that a higher incidence of tick-borne encephalitis with the rise in yearly temperatures. They found several studies that suggested how a negative impact of higher temperatures on those with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and migraine. However, the evidence wasn’t enough for them to make a solid conclusion.


Effects of Migration

The researchers pushed forward and analyzed a total of nine studies that looked into the occurrence of neurological disorders in those migrants. After analyzing these, they saw that the direction of the effect of migration on the occurrence of neurological disorders was also variable. Hence, whether or not migration increased or decreased, the incidence of neurological disorders among migrants was somewhat linked to cultural, economic, and social factors in their origin and destination countries. Also, the access to healthcare services in both the countries of origin and arrival also had an impact on the results they found.

For example, how stroke was more prevalent in those native to and residing in China than those who had immigrated to Western countries. These results were probably brought about by the greater access to healthcare in Western countries and cultural factors. The latter referring to the higher salt intake for those who lived in this Asian country.

On the other hand, one of the analyzed studies saw how those who had emigrated from the Caribbean to London, United Kingdom, had a higher chance of suffering from a stroke. Individuals of African descent from the Caribbean are believed to have a genetic predisposition to these cardiovascular diseases. Hence, the results show that the likelihood of the interaction of genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases with socioeconomic factors upon immigration may have increased their chances of suffering from a stroke.


Limitations of the Study

The researchers took note of the details of the studies that examined the impact of elevated temperatures on these neurological disorders. They saw considerable differences in their methodology and study design. More importantly, none of the reviewed studies targeted to uniquely address the impact of global warming and climate-related migration on these neurological disorders.

The researchers also noted that most of the analyzed studies that were conducted happened to be in financially richer nations. Thus, the effects of climate change are likely to be disproportionately experienced by those living in lower income countries and disadvantaged communities. The results then may not be fully representational of what is really happening.

They also acknowledged the fact that their study only took into consideration the potential impact of global warming and migration on neurological disorders. And as said preciously, climate change includes rising sea levels, drought, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity that may also have an impact on neurological disorders, its contingency and symptoms.

MNT met with Dr. George Perry. He is a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He may not have been involved with the study, but he also suggested how other factors such as stress, besides a change in ambient temperature, may be more crucial when it comes to arbitrating the unpropitious outcomes brought about by climate change.

Dr. Perry then explained, “The known issue is that global warming is increasing stress and uncertainty, [which] potentiate conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. In the context of increasing environmental degradation — particulate air pollution, resource competition, and conflict — climate change is but one of many stressors where we must reduce or modify the impact to preserve global health for us and the planet.”