Picking Your Nose could have serious consequences for your brain health

Picking your nose may seem like a harmless habit, but it could have serious consequences for your brain health. According to a new study from Australia, the bacteria and viruses that are on your finger could travel through the nasal route and reach your brain, increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The nose is not just an entry point, it is a highway to the brain. The roof of the nasal cavity provides a direct path to some areas of the brain that are closely related to memory and spatial orientation, such as the hippocampus. These are the same areas of the brain where Alzheimer’s disease causes damage. Science Alert reports that until now, scientists believed that the main factors behind Alzheimer’s disease were the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides (proteins that, under certain circumstances, are harmful to the central nervous system) and the transformation of the Tau protein. Now, neuro-inflammation is added to the list of potential factors. This could “play at least a partial role in the pathogenesis [of Alzheimer’s development]”, the researchers write.

As they note, picking your nose has already been linked to an increased risk of infection several times: a study published in August 2023 showed a connection between this bad habit and the risk of contracting Covid-19. In addition, previous studies had also shown that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease were often detected first in the olfactory bulb, which is the area of the brain that detects smells.

The lessons to be learned There are two ways by which nose-picking – or rhinotillexomania, according to the scientific term – can indirectly lead to brain inflammation. First, this bad habit involves removing what is hidden in the nasal cavity. In some cases, this can affect the balance of the nasal microbiota, making it less effective at preventing intruders from entering. Then, by picking your nose, you are not only inserting your finger, but also and above all the pathogens it carries. This is where your finger becomes a springboard to your brain. If a clear and definitive conclusion on the causes of Alzheimer’s is still far away, these advances are encouraging for understanding this complex disease. The scientists also argue that their study opens the door to “new avenues of prevention”. According to them, this is one of the lessons to be learned from the Covid-19 crisis: better hand hygiene is a simple and accessible preventive measure against the risks of viruses, whatever they may be.

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