Exposure to polystyrene microplastics impairs hippocampus-dependent learning and memory in mice

Chiang Wen Lee, Lee Fen Hsu, I. Lin Wu, Yung Li Wang, Wei Chen Chen, Yan Jun Liu, Lu Tang Yang, Chong Lun Tan, Yueh Hsia Luo, Chia Ching Wang, Hui Wen Chiu, Thomas Chung Kuang Yang, Yen Yue Lin, Hsin An Chang, Yao Chang Chiang, Ching Hsiang Chen, Ming Hsueh Lee, Kuo Ti Peng, Cathy Chia Yu Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics (MPs) pollution has become a serious environmental issue worldwide, but its potential effects on health remain unknown. The administration of polystyrene MPs (PS-MPs) to mice for eight weeks impaired learning and memory behavior. PS-MPs were detected in the brain especially in the hippocampus of these mice. Concurrently, the hippocampus had decreased levels of immediate-early genes, aberrantly enhanced synaptic glutamate AMPA receptors, and elevated neuroinflammation, all of which are critical for synaptic plasticity and memory. Interestingly, ablation of the vagus nerve, a modulator of the gut-brain axis, improved the memory function of PS-MPs mice. These results indicate that exposure to PS-MPs in mice alters the expression of neuronal activity-dependent genes and synaptic proteins, and increases neuroinflammation in the hippocampus, subsequently causing behavioral changes through the vagus nerve-dependent pathway. Our findings shed light on the adverse impacts of PS-MPs on the brain and hippocampal learning and memory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128431
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - May 15 2022


  • Brain
  • Learning and memory
  • Polystyrene microplastics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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