Risk factors for brain health in agricultural work: a systematic review

Sturm, Emily Terese, author
Castro, Colton, author
Mendez Colmenares, Andrea, author
Duffy, John, author
Burzynzka, Agnieszka Z., author
Stallones, Lorann, author
Thomas, Michael L., author
MDPI, publisher
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Certain exposures related to agricultural work have been associated with neurological disorders. To date, few studies have included brain health measurements to link specific risk factors with possible neural mechanisms. Moreover, a synthesis of agricultural risk factors associated with poorer brain health outcomes is missing. In this systematic review, we identified 106 articles using keywords related to agriculture, occupational exposure, and the brain. We identified seven major risk factors: non-specific factors that are associated with agricultural work itself, toluene, pesticides, heavy metal or dust exposure, work with farm animals, and nicotine exposure from plants. Of these, pesticides are the most highly studied. The majority of qualifying studies were epidemiological studies. Nigral striatal regions were the most well studied brain area impacted. Of the three human neuroimaging studies we found, two focused on functional networks and the third focused on gray matter. We identified two major directions for future studies that will help inform preventative strategies for brain health in vulnerable agricultural workers: (1) the effects of moderators such as type of work, sex, migrant status, race, and age; and (2) more comprehensive brain imaging studies, both observational and experimental, involving several imaging techniques.
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brain health
risk factors
vulnerable populations
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