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Environ Res. 2000 Oct;84(2):81-8.

Association between prenatal exposure to methylmercury and cognitive functioning in Seychellois children: a reanalysis of the McCarthy Scales of Children's Ability from the main cohort study.

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Department of Neurology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642, USA.


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a neurotoxicant whose high-dose effects first became known following a number of poisoning outbreaks that occurred worldwide. The primary human exposure is low dosage from fish consumption. Studies of fish-eating populations have not found a consistent pattern of association between exposures and outcomes. Therefore, examining specific areas of cognitive functioning has been suggested as an important approach to determine whether more subtle effects of MeHg exposure are present. In the Seychelles longitudinal study of prenatal and postnatal MeHg exposure from fish consumption and development, the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities (MSCA) were administered to children at age 66 months. No association between MeHg exposure and performance on the MSCA General Cognitive Index was identified. We analyzed these data further to determine whether associations were present on specific subscales of the MSCA. The standard MSCA subscales were analyzed. Then, more specific subscales of the MSCA were defined and analyzed utilizing a neuropsychological approach. The subscales were recombined to approximate the domains of cognitive functioning evaluated in the Faroes and New Zealand studies. Analyses of both the standard and the recombined MSCA subscales showed no adverse associations with MeHg exposure and neuropsychological endpoints. A positive association between postnatal MeHg exposure and performance on the MSCA Memory subscale was found. These findings are consistent with previous reports from the Seychelles study in that no adverse effects of MeHg exposure from fish consumption can be detected in this cohort.

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