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Crit Rev Toxicol. 2008;38(7):623-7. doi: 10.1080/10408440802026356.

Hormetic responses in neural systems: consideration, contexts, and caveats.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Dr. Edward Calabrese asserts that hormetic responses occur in neural systems, and provides ample review of evidence to support this claim. In this essay, we survey Dr. Calabrese's findings, illustrate the somewhat provocative premise of hormesis, and posit that while evidence suggests that amplification of low-dose effects are operative in neural systems, it is equally important to consider observations and claims of hormesis in greater detail, and framed within the "cultural" and epistemic contexts of science. We offer specific caveats to avoid the overgeneralization of findings, oversimplification of putative effects or mechanisms, and the dogmatic adherence to a restrictive methodologic orientation. Finally, we assert that any meaningful discussion of hormesis must be grounded to methodologic rigor, yet openness, and must allow for a self-critical and self-revisionist epistemic approach. We attempt to show that the work presented by Calabrese takes a first and important step toward the initiation of dialectic, allows for the exchange of ideas, strives toward reconciliation of differences and the amelioration of error, and seeks intellectual synthesis.

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