The brain and behavioral effects of early exposure to chlorpyrifos

UC Davis MIND Institute UC Davis MIND Institute

The lecture will be part of the MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series and will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20 at 2825 50th St., Sacramento. It is free and open to the public and no reservations are required.

Chlorpyrifos has been banned for indoor residential use in the United States since 2001, but continues to be widely used in agriculture. The neurotoxic effects of chlorpyrifos have been shown in animal studies at exposure levels well below the threshold for systemic toxicity. Those findings prompted a prospective cohort study to investigate possible long-term human effects at levels of exposure that are commonly found in many areas of the country.

Rauh’s presentation examines the evidence for long-term effects of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure on neuropsychological profiles and brain morphology, as measured by MRI. Highly exposed children show a unique neuropsychological profile, with significant deficits in auditory attention and fine-motor performance, but no deficits on more complex visual attention and inhibitory control tasks.

These findings, Rauh said, are consistent with abnormalities in brain structure and function, and suggest that prenatal pesticide exposure, at the relatively modest doses common in agricultural regions of the U.S., result in a signature pattern of neuropsychological deficits, accompanied by disturbances in brain morphology by MRI, persisting into the early school years.

Rauh is professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Her work includes extensive research, including studies of the impact of organophosphorus insecticides and secondhand smoke on child neurodevelopment and brain abnormalities; a randomized intervention trial for low birth-weight infants and a study of the effects of ambient air pollutants on pregnant women and their children.

She has served on numerous national committees, including the Scientific Advisory Board for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institutes of Health study sections and expert panels for the EPA, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at