Computational Urban Science

Need for considering urban climate change factors on stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and mood disorders studies

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The adverse health impacts of climate change have been well documented. It is increasingly apparent that the impacts are disproportionately higher in urban populations, especially underserved communities. Studies have linked urbanization and air pollution with health impacts, but the exacerbating role of urban heat islands (UHI) in the context of neurodegenerative diseases has not been well addressed. The complex interplay between climate change, local urban air pollution, urbanization, and a rising population in cities has led to the byproduct of increased heat stress in urban areas. Some urban neighborhoods with poor infrastructure can have excessive heat even after sunset, increasing internal body temperature and leading to hyperthermic conditions. Such conditions can put individuals at higher risk of stroke by creating a persistent neuroinflammatory state, including, in some instances, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) phenotypes. Components of the AD phenotype, such as amyloid beta plaques, can disrupt long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), which can negatively alter the mesolimbic function and thus contribute to the pathogenesis of mood disorders. Furthermore, although a link has not previously been established between heat and Parkinson’s Disease (PD), it can be postulated that neuroinflammation and cell death can contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction and thus lead to Lewy Body formation, which is a hallmark of PD. Such postulations are currently being presented in the emerging field of ‘neurourbanism’. This study highlights that: (i) the impact of urban climate, air pollution and urbanization on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders is an area that needs further investigation; (ii) urban climate- health studies need to consider the heterogeneity in the urban environment and the impact it has on the UHI. In that, a clear need exists to go beyond the use of airport-based representative climate data to a consideration of more spatially explicit, high-resolution environmental datasets for such health studies, especially as they pertain to the development of locally-relevant climate adaptive health solutions. Recent advances in the development of super-resolution (downscaled climate) datasets using computational tools such as convolution neural networks (CNNs) and other machine learning approaches, as well as the emergence of urban field labs that generate spatially explicit temperature and other environmental datasets across different city neighborhoods, will continue to become important. Future climate – health studies need to develop strategies to benefit from such urban climate datasets that can aid the creation of localized, effective public health assessments and solutions.


30 Jan 2023


Computational Urban Science