Our Brains on Pollutants

Award for pushing the limits of the form

By: Lauren Beckett, Niyanta Joshi, Miranda Le, Kevin Sun

We are on the cusp of a neurological epidemic. The culprit: environmental pollution.

Air pollution is a major threat to our brain health. This news segment breaks down the biological and societal factors of this issue.

Miranda, newscaster of HBS News, takes us through the case study of Smogsville: a fictional urban center whose residents are faced with an increased level of air pollution exposure and a greater incidence of age-related neurological disease. She calls in some experts to explain how this issue emerged. Niyanta is a neurologist in Smogsville who has observed first-hand an increase in the incidence of age-related neurological disease in her patients. She defines what age-related neurological diseases are, the pathways that air pollutants take into the body, and how pollutants change brain structure and function to lead to neurological disease.

The conversation is then steered over to public health officials, Kevin and Lauren, who delve into the societal influences of this issue. Kevin points to the geography of Smogsville, which has put marginalized communities closer to major roads thereby increasing their exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Lauren explains that low-income and minority communities are not only victims of environmental injustice, but also are burdened with increased risk of age-related neurological disease.

The HBS News team comes together at the end to discuss institutional and individual changes necessary to alleviate the air pollution and neurological disease burden in Smogsville.

The entirety of the segment takes place on the platform gather.town, where each person is represented by an avatar and can move around the digital world of Smogsville. It’s important to note that while Smogsville is a fictional town, it has been crafted to highlight all of the biological and societal threats that actual US residents face.

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This project wins an award for pushing the limits of the form. The creative mash-up of using a virtual space to make a documentary about a fictional town is mind-blowing, and the way it presents detailed material about the issues of air pollution and brain health is illuminating and engaging. Well done! – Professor Kelty

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Based on Bootstrapious.com and Kishan B