Behavioral Manifestations of Neurotoxicity
Bernard Weiss University of Rochester
Behavioral toxicology embraces the adverse behavioral effects of chemicals, particularly those to which we are exposed in the environment ( Weiss & Cory-Slechta, 1994). Behavioral toxicology surfaced as a discipline around 1970, at a time when toxicology remained rooted in death or pathology as endpoints. Its importance quickly grew evident as functional disorders ascribed to environmental pollutants attracted the attention of both the public and regulatory authorities. Behavior gained further stature as one of the criteria specified by Congress in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.
Psychiatry still seems reluctant to concede the role of toxicology in explaining some behavioral disorders. Neurotoxicity is barely mentioned in psychiatric textbooks, except in the guise of gross poisoning, such as overdoses of medication. But flagrant toxicity is not the core subject matter of contemporary neurobehavioral toxicology. Its principal theme, rather, is the detection and characterization of subtle dysfunction, and its tools consist of test methods adapted from neuropsychology and experimental psychology. One aim of this chapter is to familiarize psychiatrists with a body of work that is directly pertinent to their clinical activities; an allied purpose is to encourage their participation in further developing the discipline.
The origins of behavioral toxicology lie in a diversity of sources (see Table 3.1). Behavioral pharmacology burgeoned with the introduction in the 1950s of chemotherapy for psychiatric disorders. Workplace exposure cri-