Week in review: 10 – 16 Jan 2022


1. Air pollution is linked to poorer mental health and increased risk of mental illness.

More and more studies point towards a link between increased levels of air pollution and decreased mental well-being. Of course, so far, studies conducted in humans are correlational, which means no causality has been yet established. Additionally, areas of high pollution, i.e. big cities, have other factors which could influence mental health, such as high population density or decreased sense of community. However, animal studies, in which mice were directly exposed to concentrations of pollutants similar to those found in city traffic (and where confounding variables could be well controlled), show similar results: high levels of pollution lead to more anxiety, decreased social behaviour, and poorer cognition.

2. Your chronotype determines whether you’re a morning or an evening person.

A chronotype refers to the tendency of sleeping at a certain time during a 24-hour period. Early birds and night owls are extreme versions of the chronotype. Most people actually fall somewhere in-between.

Chronotypes are determined by the underlying circadian rhythms controlling various physiological parameters and processes, such as hormone levels, body temperature, metabolic function, or sleeping.

Both a genetic component, as well as an environmental one contribute towards establishing a person’s chronotype.

3. Capgras syndrome is the irrational belief that a loved one has been replaced by an identical duplicate.

This rare syndrome can appear both in psychiatric, as well as non-psychiatric conditions or be caused by brain damage. Most common psychiatric disorders which can exhibit Capgras syndrome are schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar affective disorder. Non-psychiatric patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, cerebrovascular accidents, pituitary tumors, or advanced Parkinson disease can also develop Capgras syndrome. Finally, it can be caused by damage to frontal, limbic, and temporal regions.

While severe, Capgras syndrome is quite rare. Its prevalence in the general population is estimated at ~0.12%. Because it is so rare, we don’t currently have a good understanding of the exact mechanisms which trigger it. But on the bright side, antipsychotics and therapy seem to help in both the treatment and management of this syndrome.

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Further reading

Petrowski, K. et al. (2021). Examining air pollution (PM10), mental health and well-being in a representative German sample. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-9.

Nephew, B. C. et al. (2020). Traffic-related particulate matter affects behavior, inflammation, and neural integrity in a developmental rodent model. Environmental research, 183, 109242.

Jain, S. B., Shah, K., & Wadhwa, R. (2021). Capgras Syndrome.

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