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Children who go to school with more traffic noise have poorer memory, study warns

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Noise pollution can affect children’s MEMORY: Children who go to school with more traffic show slower cognitive development, study warns

  • Researchers tested 2,680 children from 38 schools across Barcelona
  • Those in schools with a lot of noise pollution had a poorer memory and less attention
  • Findings suggest that childhood is a vulnerable period in which external stimuli such as sound can influence the process of cognitive development

It’s a widespread problem in schools in cities around the world, and now a new study has warned that noise pollution can affect children’s memories.

Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health studied children who attended 38 schools in Barcelona.

They found that children in schools with more traffic noise had slower cognitive development.

“Our study supports the hypothesis that childhood is a vulnerable period in which external stimuli such as sound can influence the rapid process of cognitive development that occurs before adolescence,” said Jordi Sunyer, an author of the study.

It’s a widespread problem in schools in cities around the world, and now a new study has warned that noise pollution can affect children’s memory (stock image)

How much influence does sound have on cognitive development?

The study found that an increase in noise level of 5 decibels resulted in:

  • 11.5 percent slower working memory development
  • 23.5 percent slower development of complex working memory
  • 4.8 percent slower attention capacity

In the study, the researchers studied 2,680 children, ages 7-10, who attended 38 schools in Barcelona.

To assess the potential impact of traffic noise on cognitive development, the researchers assessed the children’s attention and working memory.

Over a 12-month period, the children completed cognitive tests four times.

During the same period, noise measurements were also collected on the playgrounds and classrooms of the schools.

An analysis of the results showed that the progression of working memory and attention was slower in students who attended schools with more traffic noise.

For example, a 5 decibel increase in outdoor noise level resulted in working memory development that was 11.5 percent slower than average, and complex working memory development was 23.5 percent slower.

It also resulted in a development in attention capacity that was 4.8 percent slower than average.

In the study, the researchers studied 2680 children aged 7-10 years who attended 38 schools in Barcelona

In the study, the researchers studied 2680 children aged 7-10 years who attended 38 schools in Barcelona

In terms of how outside and inside noise compared, the researchers found that children in schools with noisy playgrounds performed worse on all tests.

However, noisy classrooms were found to affect only the children’s attention, not their working memory.

“This finding suggests that noise peaks in the classroom may interfere with neurodevelopment more than the average decibel level,” said Dr Maria Foraster, lead author of the study.

“This is important because it supports the hypothesis that noise characteristics may be more influential than average noise levels, despite the fact that current policy is based solely on average decibels.”

The researchers also looked at the children’s average noise levels at home, based on a traffic noise map of Barcelona.

Surprisingly, they found no association between residential noise and cognitive development.

‘This may be because exposure to noise at school is more harmful because it affects vulnerable concentration and learning processes,’ said Dr Forester.

‘On the other hand, although noise measurements have been made at the schools, the noise levels at the children’s homes have been estimated using a sound card that may be less accurate and in any case only reflects outside noise. This too may have influenced the results.’

While the reason for the findings remains unclear, the researchers hope their findings will lead to further research into road traffic and its effect on children’s cognitive development.

Children who live in areas with a lot of air pollution, noise and traffic are more likely to be obese, study suggests

Children who live in areas of the country with more air pollution, noise and traffic are more likely to be obese, researchers say.

A study of more than 2,000 children in Sabadell, near Barcelona, ​​Spain, examined these important environmental factors and their impact on children’s weight.

Children aged nine to 12 were examined by experts from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the University Institute for Primary Care Research Jordi Gol.

Forty percent of children living in cities were overweight or obese at the time of the study, due to urban factors such as pollution, noise and traffic.

The authors say that understanding the mechanism of the relationship between an urban environment and childhood obesity could lead to the development of community-led health services to promote healthier behaviors in a city.

They couldn’t say what caused the link, but suggest it could be air pollution causing inflammation or oxidative stress, endocrine disruption and visceral adiposity.

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