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Air pollution, antenatal depression and anxiety, and foetus brain development

Project description

Prenatal air pollution, maternal mental health and offspring neurodevelopment

During prenatal development, the foetus is vulnerable to the effects of a range of environmental exposures, such as maternal stress, anxiety and depression. These can have lasting effects on infant development with consequences for risk of psychopathology or changes in the brain structures associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. The EU-funded PRESSURE project will investigate the effect of air pollution and noise in mothers’ antenatal depression and anxiety. It will evaluate the mediation role of mothers’ depression/anxiety in the link between air pollution and the development of brain structures in the foetus. Specifically, it will add insight into the fields of exposure assessment and how brain development is affected by air pollution, which is the main urban‐related environmental hazard.


Latest research suggests a link between air pollution (AP) and psychological health, including depression and impaired neurodevelopment. In pregnant women, besides mother’s own well-being, antenatal anxiety or depression may result in an abnormal brain development of the offspring generation. However, little evidence is yet available on these fields. Traditionally, epidemiological studies have used modelled ambient AP estimates at home, with biases arising from this simplification. Personal measurements of AP permit the determination of accurate exposure and dose, by considering different environments and physical activity intensities. Moreover, previous studies lack the assessment of possible confounding by noise on the effects of AP. The aims of the PRESSURE Project are to assess the effect of air pollution and noise in mother’s antenatal depression and anxiety and to evaluate the mediation role of mother’s depression/anxiety in the link between AP and the development of brain structures in the foetus. To achieve this aim, (i) I will develop a modelling framework to accurately quantify the exposure and dose of the population to PM2.5 Black Carbon (BC), and NO2 in different time-windows of the pregnancy period by using data from personal measurements in a large cohort of pregnant women (n=1,300); (ii) I will assess the effect of AP and noise exposure/dose on antenatal depression and anxiety (evaluated through questionnaires); and (iii) I will evaluate the mediation role of antenatal anxiety/depression in the association between maternal exposure to AP and structural changes in the growing brain of the foetuses and new-borns through neuroimaging (transvaginal neurosonography and neonatal MRI). This multidisciplinary project may add insight in the fields of exposure assessment and AP effects on mental health and brain development, and may lead to public health actions to improve air quality and reduce the burden of disease associated with air pollution in Europe.


Net EU contribution
€ 172 932,48
08036 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 172 932,48