People with dementia, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis could be at risk of worsening symptoms because of the impact of climate change and air pollution, researchers have said.

The team behind the research have called for further studies, saying it is “imperative” that neurologists can predict how neurologic disease may change.

Their findings show the relationships between changes in temperature and worsening symptoms in people with neurologic disease, along with the link between pollutants in the air and the rate and severity of cerebrovascular disease.

In addition, the research also showed an association between temperature changes and extreme weather, and stroke incidence, worsening of multiple sclerosis and people with dementia being admitted to hospital.

Review author Dr Andrew Dhawan, a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said: “Although the international community seeks to reduce global temperature rise to under 2.7 ºF before 2100, irreversible environmental changes have already occurred, and as the planet warms these changes will continue to occur.

“As we witness the effects of a warming planet on human health, it is imperative that neurologists anticipate how neurologic disease may change.”

The review of previous research saw the team analyse studies on climate change, pollutants, temperature extremes and neurologic disease involving adults published between 1990 and 2022. The scoping exercise included 364 relevant studies, including 289 studies about the impact of pollution, 38 studies on extreme weather events and temperature changes and 37 studies on emerging neuroinfectious diseases.

Dr Dhawan said: “Climate change poses many challenges for humanity, some of which are not well-studied. For example, our review did not find any articles related to effects on neurologic health from food and water insecurity, yet these are clearly linked to neurologic health and climate change.

“More studies are needed on ways to reduce neuroinfectious disease transmission, how air pollution affects the nervous system, and how to improve delivery of neurologic care in the face of climate-related disruptions.”

Read the full study in the journal Neurology.

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