Special Issue "Environmental and Social Influences on Cognitive Development and Function"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Assoc. Prof. David Harley
Website
Guest Editor
Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mater Research Institute-UQ, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4101, Australia
Interests: epidemiology; infectious disease epidemiology; health services research; adult developmental disability medicine; indigenous health
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Shamshad Karatela
Website
Guest Editor
School of Public Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4006, Australia
Interests: Environmental epidemiology; neurodevelopmental disorders; obesity; neurotoxins; air pollution; mental health

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue on the impact of the environment on cognitive development and function throughout the lifecourse in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The venue is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes articles and communications in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health. For detailed information on the journal, we refer you to https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph. 

The environment plays a critical role on cognitive development and function and consequently upon lifecourse trajectory. Toxins including arsenic, mercury, and lead impact the cognitive development and function of children. In utero exposure to alcohol and consequent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder impair cognitive function. Exposure to sodium valproate in utero may increase the likelihood of autism. Deficiencies in iodine and iron can impair cognition. Traumatic brain injury at any stage in the lifecourse may have major adverse impacts. In utero infection with cytomegalovirus and rubella virus can impair special senses and cognition. Cerebral infections including pneumococcal meningitis can adversely impact cognitive development. Cognitive function is significantly influenced by the social environment, and the social environment modifies the effects of other exposures outlined above.

This Special Issue is open to any subject area related to the impacts of the environment on cognitive development and function. In this context environment is interpreted broadly to include toxins, nutrients, radiation, education and other parts of the social environment, infections, and other exposures that may impact cognitive function at any stage in the lifecourse from in utero to advanced age. The listed keywords suggest just a few of the many possibilities.

Assoc. Prof. David Harley
Dr. Shamshad Karatela
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Cognitive development
  • Infection
  • Environment
  • Diet
  • Food
  • Nutrition
  • Toxins
  • Poisons
  • Education
  • Social determinants of health

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Household Smoking Status and Heavy Metal Concentrations in Toenails of Children
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 3871; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16203871 - 12 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
There is limited evidence on the distribution of heavy metals and its association with secondhand smoking (SHS) within Pacific Island children living in New Zealand. Certain heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and aluminum (Al) bioaccumulates in the body and can [...] Read more.
There is limited evidence on the distribution of heavy metals and its association with secondhand smoking (SHS) within Pacific Island children living in New Zealand. Certain heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and aluminum (Al) bioaccumulates in the body and can deteriorate health in both children and adults. Others, such as chromium (Cr) and nickel (Ni) in trace amounts are necessary but become toxic at high levels. Exposure routes of these elements include food, water, and air. The purpose of this study was to identify the distribution of toxic metal concentrations and its possible correlation with SHS within the Pacific Island children. A sub-sample of children within Pacific Island families longitudinal study, at the nine-year phase, who were living in the New Zealand city of Auckland were invited to participate, (n = 278). Toenails were used as a biomarker to determine Cr, Pb, Cd, Cu, Ni, and Al concentration using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Reliable and validated questionnaires were used for demographics, lifestyle, and health outcome variables. Significant differences between household smoking status and ethnicity, as well as parents’ marital status, were observed (p < 0.05). There was no statistical difference in heavy metal concentrations in smoking versus non-smoking households. However, Cr, Pb, Cd, Cu, and Ni concentrations were all higher than the required optimal health value in both groups. A high concentration of heavy metals was observed in these children that exceeded the value required for optimal health, although no significant difference in heavy metals with regards to secondhand smoking was observed. SHS was associated with children’s ethnicity and parental marital status, but not with household income levels or maternal education. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Mercury Exposure in Mother-Children Pairs in A Seafood Eating Population: Body Burden and Related Factors
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(12), 2238; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16122238 - 25 Jun 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Background: Mercury is a neurotoxin that affects neurodevelopment in children; however, its association at the lowest concentration is not clear. The main objective of this study is to measure and evaluate mercury concentrations in mother–child pairs and its association demographics, lifestyle, and dietary [...] Read more.
Background: Mercury is a neurotoxin that affects neurodevelopment in children; however, its association at the lowest concentration is not clear. The main objective of this study is to measure and evaluate mercury concentrations in mother–child pairs and its association demographics, lifestyle, and dietary factors within the Pacific Island Families living in Auckland, New Zealand. Methods: Mercury exposure was assessed in a sub-sample of mother–child pairs who were a part of the Pacific Island Families birth cohort, in Auckland, New Zealand at the 6-year phase. Hair samples were collected from both mothers and their children to determine mercury concentrations. Total mercury was measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for hair samples. An interviewer-based reliable food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) examined the frequency of seafood by all the participants. Other variables such as sociodemographic (ethnicity and gender), lifestyle factors (income, education, and smoking status) and health outcomes (child behaviour and obesity) were also collected. Results: In this study, 41% of both mothers and their children had mercury concentrations above the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended value of 1 µg/g. Most of the participants ate fish 3 or more times a week. A significant correlation was observed between mother and child hair mercury concentrations (Spearman Rho 0.79 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.65, 0.88)). Conclusions: Mercury levels in children can be affected by their mothers’ levels due to similar eating patterns. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Child Developmental Disabilities, Caregivers’ Role in Kenya and Its Implications on Global Migration
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(6), 1010; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16061010 - 20 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Background: This paper is a summary of the findings from an ethnographic study on child developmental disabilities conducted partly in Nairobi and Kiambu Counties in Kenya. Methods: Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods were applied for the period between mid August [...] Read more.
Background: This paper is a summary of the findings from an ethnographic study on child developmental disabilities conducted partly in Nairobi and Kiambu Counties in Kenya. Methods: Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods were applied for the period between mid August and mid November 2018. The study was conducted through the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) situated in Nairobi County. Results: There are parents who are willing to migrate in search of better education and healthcare options for their children who have developmental disabilities (DDs). However, there are also government reforms taking place in the field of disability that may help to support the caregiving role for children with special needs. The challenges, bargaining position and power play between parents or guardians and other actors implicated in the debates on inclusion and integration of persons with developmental disabilities in Kenya has been brought to the forefront. Conclusions: In Kenya, more needs to be done to change the attitude towards disability from the medical and moral (religious/cultural) models to an approach leaning towards the social model, so that developmental disabilities are not viewed negatively. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of Demographic Variables on Subjective Neurocognitive Complaints Using the Neurocognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) in an Aged Japanese Population
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(3), 421; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16030421 - 01 Feb 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Objectives: In an aged Japanese population, we investigated associations of demographic variables with subjective neurocognitive complaints using the Neurocognitive Questionnaire (NCQ). Methods: Participants (N = 649) provided answers to the NCQ in both 2011 and 2013. Using fully-completed NCQs from 503 participants [...] Read more.
Objectives: In an aged Japanese population, we investigated associations of demographic variables with subjective neurocognitive complaints using the Neurocognitive Questionnaire (NCQ). Methods: Participants (N = 649) provided answers to the NCQ in both 2011 and 2013. Using fully-completed NCQs from 503 participants in 2011, we identified latent factors of subjective neurocognitive complaints using exploratory factor analysis; then examined associations of demographic variables with the identified factors for all 649 participants over the two years. We also examined changes in factor scores over the 2-year period. Results: We identified four factors representing 20 of the 25 NCQ items and labelled them metacognition, emotional regulation, motivation/organization, and processing speed. In a regression model using all participants, we observed linear deterioration with age on emotional regulation and linear-quadratic deterioration with age on the other factors. Less education was associated with more problems for all factors, but we detected no evidence of interaction between age and education. In 314 participants completing both assessments, paired t-tests comparing the 2013 to 2011 responses corroborated the regression results, except for emotional regulation. Conclusions: On the NCQ, older age and less education were associated with more subjective neurocognitive complaints. This is compatible with the association of the same factors with objective cognition and suggests that subjective cognitive complaints complement objective cognition as a prodrome of non-normative cognitive decline. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Determinants of Spatial Heterogeneity of Functional Illiteracy among School-Aged Children in the Philippines: An Ecological Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(1), 137; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16010137 - 07 Jan 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Functional literacy is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Functional literacy indicators are likely to vary between locations given the geographical variability of its major determinants. This property poses a challenge to decisions around efficient [...] Read more.
Functional literacy is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Functional literacy indicators are likely to vary between locations given the geographical variability of its major determinants. This property poses a challenge to decisions around efficient allocation of population services and resources to mitigate the impact of functional literacy in populations most in need. Using functional literacy indicators of 11,313 school-aged children collected in 2008 during the nationwide survey, the current study examined the association between functional literacy and geographical disparities in socioeconomic status (SES), water supply, sanitation and hygiene, household education stimuli, and environmental variables in all three regions of the Philippines (Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao). Three nested fixed-effects multinomial regression models were built to determine associations between functional literacy and a wide array of variables. Our results showed the general prevalence rate of functional illiteracy as being 4.7%, with the highest prevalence rate in the Visayas, followed by Mindanao and Luzon (7.5%, 6.9%, and 3.0%, respectively. Our results indicated that in Luzon prevalence of functional illiteracy was explained by variation in household education stimuli scores, sources of drinking water, and type of toilet facility. In Mindanao and the Visayas prevalence of functional illiteracy was primarily explained by geographical variation in SES, and natural environmental conditions. Our study highlights region-specific determinants of functional literacy and the need for geographically targeted, integrated interventions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of Participation in Social Activities on Cognitive Function Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Korea
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(10), 2315; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15102315 - 21 Oct 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Cognitive function is a critical health issue in later life, the decline of which disrupts well-being and daily life function. Cognitive decline in older ages can also be understood in the context of the social environment such as social connectedness and engagement in [...] Read more.
Cognitive function is a critical health issue in later life, the decline of which disrupts well-being and daily life function. Cognitive decline in older ages can also be understood in the context of the social environment such as social connectedness and engagement in personal life. This study aimed to examine: (1) whether participation in social activities contributes to preventing cognitive decline, and (2) what type of social activities are beneficial to maintaining cognitive function. Data from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLOSA) 2006–2014, a longitudinal survey of the household-dwelling population aged 45 and older in Korea were used. The results revealed that Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores decreased with increasing age, at a rate of approximately 0.18 units across all age-gender groups, and the decrease was steeper for adults aged 65 and over. Participation in social gatherings was likely to delay the decline in cognitive function after the age of 65. In a gender-stratified model, social activity may not have an impact on the decline of cognitive function for men, whereas participation in social gatherings was negatively related to the decline of MMSE scores in women. This study suggests the need for a gender-stratified policy for preventing the decline of cognitive function while promoting engagement in social activities in Korean older adults. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Perspectives on Inclusive Education of Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities in Iran
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(10), 2307; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15102307 - 20 Oct 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Background: Iranian children with disabilities invariably attend special schools and many may be excluded from education entirely. Information on preschool education is limited but probably mirrors the situation in schools. There is a lack of information in terms of parental preferences for [...] Read more.
Background: Iranian children with disabilities invariably attend special schools and many may be excluded from education entirely. Information on preschool education is limited but probably mirrors the situation in schools. There is a lack of information in terms of parental preferences for schooling and teachers’ experiences of inclusion in Iran. Method: Two feasibility studies were undertaken; one with 89 parents of children with autism or intellectual disabilities, and another with the head teachers of two private kindergartens. Results: Two-thirds of parents favored inclusive schools; most parents whose children had autism or were verbally proficient were in favor of their child attending ordinary schools, even if their child had been placed in a specialist preschool facility. The head teachers justified inclusion in terms of children’s rights but identified three main challenges: coping with the diverse level of functioning, the need for special devices and training of teachers, and challenging the negative reactions of parents of non-disabled children. Conclusions: Further exploration of the views of those who have experienced inclusion would further challenge existing practices. Moreover, the training and preparation of teachers is key to reforming schools. However, wider social values and beliefs towards disabilities also need to change. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Disability and Its Influencing Factors among the Elderly in a County, Guangxi Province, China
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(9), 1967; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15091967 - 09 Sep 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
Objectives: This study aims to understand the disability status of the elderly residents of a County (Guangxi Province, China) and explore its influencing factors. Methods: Respondents consisted of 2300 elderly people aged 60 and above from three townships in the county [...] Read more.
Objectives: This study aims to understand the disability status of the elderly residents of a County (Guangxi Province, China) and explore its influencing factors. Methods: Respondents consisted of 2300 elderly people aged 60 and above from three townships in the county we studied. The Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Scale was used to assess the disability of the elderly sample. Chi-square test was applied to compare the disability rate among the elderly with different demographic characteristics. The graph showed the disability rates of ADL, six items of Physical Activities of Daily Living (PADL) and eight items of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) at different ages. Binary logistic regression was used to analyze the influencing factors of disability rate among the elderly. Results: The disability rates of ADL, PADL, and IADL in the elderly were 43.4%, 11.6%, and 42.4%, respectively. As with the increase in age, the disability rates of ADL, IADL, PADL, and their 14 items gradually increased (p < 0.05), with walking, using the telephone, and using public vehicles having higher disability rates than other items. The influencing factors of ADL disability were gender (OR = 0.579, 95%CI = 0.441–0.759), age (OR = 2.270, 95%CI = 1.867–2.759; OR = 4.719, 95%CI = 2.998–7.429; OR = 6.249, 95%CI = 3.667–10.648), educational level (OR = 2.844, 95%CI = 2.076–3.897; OR = 1.677, 95%CI = 1.246–2.230), and having metabolic syndrome (MetS) (OR = 1.298, 95%CI = 1.044–1.613). Compared with ADL, the influencing factor of PADL disability was gender, whereas that of IADL disability was whether someone had MetS. Conclusions: With age, the possibility of ADL, PADL, and IADL damage in the elderly is higher. Gender, age, educational level, the number of chronic diseases, and whether someone has MetS might be the influencing factors of disability. Interventions should be taken from a variety of sources specific to the content of each entry. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
School Green Space and Its Impact on Academic Performance: A Systematic Literature Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(3), 429; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16030429 - 01 Feb 2019
Cited by 21
Abstract
Background: Scholars and policymakers have criticized public education in developed countries for perpetuating health and income disparities. Several studies have examined the ties between green space and academic performance, hypothesizing that green space can foster performance, and, over time, help reduce such [...] Read more.
Background: Scholars and policymakers have criticized public education in developed countries for perpetuating health and income disparities. Several studies have examined the ties between green space and academic performance, hypothesizing that green space can foster performance, and, over time, help reduce such disparities. Although numerous reviews have analyzed the link between nature and child health, none have focused on academic achievement. Methods: We identified 13 peer-reviewed articles that examined associations between academic outcomes, types of green spaces, and distances in which green spaces were measured around schools. Results: Of the 122 findings reported in the 13 articles, 64% were non-significant, 8% were significant and negative, and 28% were significant and positive. Positive findings were limited to greenness, tree cover, and green land cover at distances up to 2000 m around schools. End-of-semester grades and college preparatory exams showed greater shares of positive associations than math or reading test scores. Most findings regarding writing test scores were non-significant, and moderation effects of socioeconomic status, gender, and urbanization showed mixed results. Conclusions: The extant literature on green space and academic performance is small, shows mixed results, and mostly includes articles using observational, school-level research designs. Regardless, there is sufficient evidence to warrant further research on this topic, including effect moderation and mechanistic pathways. Full article
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