Article Text

Download PDFPDF
  1. W Kent Anger
  1. Correspondence to: 
 Dr W Kent Anger, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Samuel Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97034, USA; anger{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

The nervous system has, since the earliest recorded history of workplace hazards, been a sensitive target organ for chemical exposures.w1 Technological advances as well as disasters such as the mercury exposures during the 1950s in Minimataw2 and the 1970s in Iraqw3 led to reduced workplace exposures during the mid 1900s and a consequent shift from the detection of obvious debility (for example, tremors, paralysis) detectable with even gross clinical methods,w4, w5 to the detection of subtle subclinical effects. Hänninen and colleagues1 were the first to tackle this issue by studying carbon disulfide exposures in the viscose rayon industry. Hänninen, a clinical psychologist at Finland’s Institute of Occupational Health, employed the tools of her discipline, and experimental psychologists brought in the tools employed in the laboratory. A new field, human behavioural neurotoxicology,w6 began to emerge.


Arguably, the primary stimuli in the USA for human neurobehavioural research on occupational and environmental chemical exposures, were the use of behavioural methods to set occupational standards in the Soviet Union,w7 and Beard and Wertheim’s2 exposure chamber research on carbon monoxide. The demonstration that the accuracy of estimates of the duration of a stimulus by college students was reduced by exposure to very low concentrations of carbon monoxide2 convinced federal agencies in the USA that behaviour was the bellweather of damage to the nervous system.w8 Federal programmes that included human neurobehavioural research began in the 1970s at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)w9 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)w10 long after similar programmes were developed in Europe.

Behavioural measures have been well established for a century as reliable and valid indicators of nervous system function in experimental research, performance assessment,w11 and clinical assessment.w12 However, before the development of …

View Full Text

Linked Articles