SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – More than 250 residents from five coastal counties, including Sarasota and Manatee counties, participated in a study looking at how red tide can impact the human brain. The findings, published last week, suggest some people can have neurological impacts from red tide’s airborne toxins.

“In previous studies that were done by Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick and her team, a number of individuals were reporting headaches, so I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what else is going on in relation to the brain,” Roskamp Institute senior scientist Dr. Laila Abdullah said. “So for that reason, we performed the study looking at brain health effects in individuals that were either in the bloom, or not in the bloom so we could compare if there was increased reporting of neurological symptoms.”

The study found a number of individuals were reporting neurological symptoms that are generally reported by people who have ingested seafood contaminated with red tide toxins. Symptoms included headaches, dizziness, numbness, nausea, tingling and the reversal of hot/cold sensations.

However, the participants in the study hadn’t eaten any contaminated seafood. They had only been exposed to the airborne red tide toxins.

“Individuals who tended to have a past history of migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome, tended to report more of those symptoms than other individuals,” said Dr. Abdullah.

Many questions remain unanswered, such as the dose level required to trigger symptoms. Scientists say more research is needed.

“We don’t know how long it lasts. Some of the affects go away, like the respiratory affects go away and the headaches go away, but we don’t know about the other symptoms and we need to do more studies to better understand it,” Dr. Abdullah said. “I think with the climate change and more people moving into the area and more of us getting exposed to red tide blooms, we really need to understand the health impacts of red tide blooms in our area.”