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Neurotoxicology. 2003 Aug;24(4-5):533-40.

Cross-cultural comparison of neurobehavioral performance in Asian workers.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine, Yeungnam University, 317-1 Daemyung-dong, Nam-gu, Daegu 705-717, Republic of Korea.


Widely-used neurobehavioral tests have been developed and standardized on Western populations, but studies on subject factors for Asian populations have been very limited. For the effective application and interpretation of neurobehavioral tests in Asian populations, an evaluation of the effects of subject factors, including cultural background, is necessary. A cross-cultural study was conducted to evaluate the effects of cultural background and the interaction between cultural background and education on neurobehavioral tests in Asian populations. The Korean version of the Swedish Performance Evaluation System (Simple Reaction Time, Symbol Digit, and Finger Tapping Speed) and a pegboard test were administered to 537 workers who were not exposed to chemicals at work from Fareast (Korea and Chinese), Central (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), and South Asia (Sri Lanka and Indonesia). The Fareast Asian group exhibited better performance in adjusted test scores than other Asian groups, achieving significance for Symbol Digit and Finger Tapping Speed in both genders. The magnitude of the effect of cultural background on Symbol Digit was comparable to the effect of about 10 years of education. Cultural background did not modify the relation between years of education and Symbol Digit in either males or females. This study may provide the first evidence that cultural background has a large impact on neurobehavioral test performance, even within Asian populations, and suggests that cultural background is a critical confounding factor that must be controlled in epidemiologic studies which include Asian populations in the sample.

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