Direct Exposure to Climate Trauma Tied to Chronic Neural Impact

Recent climate trauma is associated with cognitive and underlying neural impacts.

HealthDay News — Recent climate trauma is associated with cognitive and underlying neural impacts, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in PLOS Climate.

Gillian K. Grennan, from University of California in San Diego, and colleagues examined the impact of climate stress among individuals directly exposed to a wildfire (27 people), indirectly exposed (who witnessed the fire but were not directly impacted; 21 people), and age- and gender-matched nonexposed controls (27 people).

The researchers found that two-thirds of the individuals directly exposed to the fire reported having experienced recent trauma, while 14 percent of the indirectly exposed individuals and none of the nonexposed controls reported recent trauma exposure. There were significant cognitive deficits observed among fire-exposed individuals, particularly on the interference processing task and greater stimulus-evoked frontoparietal activity as measured on this task. Stimulus-evoked activity in the left frontal cortex was associated with overall improved interference processing efficiency in all participants, suggesting the increased activity observed in fire-exposed individuals may reflect a compensatory increase in cortical processes associated with cognitive control.

“Our study shows that climate trauma may affect cognitive and brain functions especially with regard to processing of distractions,” the authors said in a statement. “This knowledge is useful because it will help guide our efforts to develop targeted intervention strategies.”

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