NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –Wildfires in New Mexico could be affecting your memory and even your mood. New research shows that smoke from fires can have serious impacts on your brain.
“What we’ve been seeing are signs that are similar to mild traumatic brain injury,” said Matthew Campen, PhD, Regents’ professor in the College of Pharmacy and co-director of the UNM Clinical & Transitional Science Center.
Wildfires in New Mexico are common. Just this month, the state had fires including the American Mesa Fire, which covered 400 acres in three weeks. Meanwhile, the Black Feather Fire reached 2,200 acres just outside of Cuba. Now, research from the University of New Mexico has found that the smoke from these fires can cause inflammation in the brain.
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“And in that process, you have changes potentially in how the brain thinks, how the brain learns and remembers things,” said Campen.
Professor Campen was the senior author of the research. He says inflammation in the brain can lead to diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Campen said in some cases the effects lasted up to a month. “The biggest thing that we discovered in this project was that it takes a long time for that inflammation to resolve…we’re talking somewhere between 14 and 28 days after the exposure is over,” said Campen.
Professor Campen said people of all ages could be at risk depending on how much exposure to smoke, they get. He said the biggest concern would be firefighters and people 70 and older. Campen said the impacts can be minimized by wearing N-95 masks and maintaining a healthy diet.
“This kind of research really shines a light that says, you know you need to remember that you’ve had these exposures and take care of them and take care of yourself…to make sure that the long-lasting effects are subdued,” said Campen.
The professor said following this research, they plan to do studies on ways to combat the effects of smoke on the brain, like taking vitamins to reduce inflammation.