Investigating the link between asthma, brain inflammation and MRI changes

Themes Mental health Respiratory disease

Workstream Exacerbation prediction and aerosol emissions

Status: This project is ongoing

Eight million people in the UK have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma + Lung UK states that around 5.4 million people receive treatment for the disease. The condition accounts for 60,000 hospital admissions and 200,000 overnight stays in hospital a year.

There is evidence that links asthma to changes in brain structure and function. These changes are associated with how serious someone’s asthma is, how well controlled it is and how their health or quality of life change because of the condition.

There are different factors that could explain this relationship. These include:

  • the physical effects of asthma on peoples’ lived experience
  • the impact of psychological conditions on asthma control
  • the effect of using certain asthma medications on the brain
  • neuroinflammation – inflammation of the brain or spinal cord – related to underlying asthma inflammation

Project aims

During this project we will look at brain imaging of people diagnosed with asthma. Doing this will help us identify if there is a link between the condition and changes to brain structure and function. We will also try to identify inflammatory markers linked to asthma that could be influencing brain changes.

We will use data from the UK Biobank to carry out our analysis. The UK Biobank is a biomedical database with access to the health information of half a million UK participants.

What we hope to achieve

Gaining a better understanding of how asthma impacts brain structure and function could help us change how patients are treated. This may take the form of:

  • intensive management of mental health problems
  • earlier aggressive asthma management
  • targeting of specific inflammatory pathways in patients with asthma

This research is part of a PhD fellowship and is being led by Dr George Nava.

It is a collaboration between the respiratory and mental health themes of the Bristol BRC.