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Effect of chronic exposure to chemicals used as weapons, pesticides under study
Date:4/18/2012

s well as the white matter, which surrounds and helps insulate the nerve fibers to ensure clear communication. Brain studies have documented a shrinkage of white matter in some Gulf War veterans; Terry want to see if chronic exposure has a similar impact: enough to hamper but not destroy communication. He was corresponding author on a paper published earlier this year in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology that indicates chronic, low-level exposure leads to chronic spatial learning and memory deficits.

Dr. Nathan Yanasak, Director of GHSU's Core Imaging Facility for Small Animals, is collaborating on the new study that will do baseline then follow-up brain images of rats after low-level exposure for 30 days. Then researchers will follow the rats until the agents are no longer detectable in the body. A manganese tracer will gauge activity up and down axons.

"We are looking at real time axonal transport changes in the brains of living animals after organophosphate exposure which has never been done before," Terry said of a perspective that should provide direct evidence of the agents' impact on the brain. "If it's being slowed down, that would tell us the stuff that needs to get down that axon is not getting there fast enough. So how is the traffic moving?" In addition to the images, behavioral testing will measure impact on working memory and the spatial reference memory that helps people navigate.

Like a muscle recovers after overuse, it's possible but not likely that once the agents clear the body, any damage they do will resolve. "We don't know unitl we do these studies if it's persistent or not," Terry said.

Organophosphates block an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine so the brain doesn't get overstimulated, Terry said. At large doses, the response includes immediate seizures, spasms and respiratory paralysis or failure. Their use as insecticides during the Gulf War from 1990-91 continues t
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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