Development of treatments for toxicant-induced cognitive deficits.
A wide variety of toxicants have been found to impair cognitive function. Some such as lead, organophosphate pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls are quite widespread in the environment. Others such as alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine are widely used drugs of abuse. Many people are chronically exposed to these toxicants. Lasting cognitive deficits can result, especially after developmental exposure. Considerable research has been directed at developing pharmacological agents to treat the cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer's Disease, Unfortunately, other types of cognitive dysfunction, such as toxicant-induced cognitive deficits, have not received the same degree of attention, despite the fact that they are quite widespread and may be more amenable to development of useful therapeutic treatments. Animal models can be particularly useful because the agents causing these deficits are known. In addition, for a variety of neurotoxic compounds, information concerning the nature of the cognitive effect and mechanism of toxic action can help in development of treatments. Prevention of toxic exposure is ideal. Removal from the source of pollution after exposure can help, but for those who already carry the burden of persistent deficits, development of efficacious therapeutic treatments is a necessity.
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