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280 A longitudinal study of neuropsychological function in young male divers
  1. R B P Bast-Pettersen,
  2. Skare Skogstad
  1. National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway

Abstract

Background and Objective Exposure to compressed-air diving may affect the nervous system. The aim of the present study was to prospectively assess possible nervous system effects from diving. A further aim was to study the effect of age on neuropsychological function in healthy young men.

Methods We obtained baseline observations of 50 young men while they were trainees at a professional diving school and retested them after six (N = 43) and twelve (N = 37) years. Average age at the first test examination was 25 years. The subjects underwent an interview focusing on education, life style habits, accidents and illnesses, and they answered a neuro­psychiatric questionnaire. Number of dives, years of diving and being a professional diver or not was recorded. They were tested with a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery comprising tests for problem solving, attention/working memory, speed of information processing, motor skills and reaction times.

Results At the end of the follow-up, 16 divers reported to be professional divers (mostly working part-time as diver). Mean number of cumulated dives was 1250 among the professional divers and 400 among the non-professional divers. Diving exposure was not found to be associated with impaired neuropsychological test results during the 12 year follow-up. There was a tendency to an increase in number of self-reported neuro­psychiatric symptoms among the oldest divers, but diving activity was not related to an increase in number of symptoms. This group of young men tested three times, had on average similar, and for several tests, almost identical results during this 12 year follow-up.

Conclusion Diving exposure did not seem to be associated with impaired neuropsychological test results in this 12-year longitudinal study.

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