Childhood lead exposure linked to decreased brain volume in adults

May 28th, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 28 (ANI): Researchers at the University of Cincinnati, USA, have found that childhood exposure to lead is linked to volume loss in specific parts of the brain in adulthood, thus leading to problems such as abnormal thinking and behaviour.

Dr Kim Cecil and colleagues studied the association between exposure to lead in the uterus and during early childhood and brain volume in adulthood.

Childhood lead exposure has been linked to various types of brain damage, leading to problems such as abnormal thinking and behaviour.

But up until now, researchers have known little about how lead damages the brain in this way or about which brain regions get damaged by exposure to low to moderate levels of lead in childhood.

Dr Cecil and colleagues studied adults who were born in a poor area of Cincinnati during a time when it had a high concentration of older lead-contaminated housing.

They recruited 157 such adults, aged between 15 and 17 years, who agreed to undergo specialized brain scans known as magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers found that exposure to lead as a child was linked with brain volume loss in adulthood, especially in men. There was a dose-response effectin other words, the greatest brain volume loss was seen in participants with the greatest lead exposure in childhood.

The specific regions of the brain involved were those responsible for organizing actions, decisions, and behaviours (known as executive functions), regulating behaviours, and coordinating fine movements (known as fine motor control).

This analysis suggests that adverse cognitive and behavioral outcomes may be related to lead’s effect on brain development producing persistent alterations in structure, the authors said.

In an expert commentary on this study, Dr David Bellinger (Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA) who was uninvolved in the research said: The associations observed by Cecil and colleagues provide a clear warning sign that early lead exposure disrupts brain development in ways that are likely to be permanent.

The study appears in the journal PLoS Medicine. (ANI)

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