Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Res. 2004 Jul;95(3):394-405.

What is an adverse effect? A possible resolution of clinical and epidemiological perspectives on neurobehavioral toxicity.

Author information

Children's Hospital Boston, Neuroepidemiology Unit, Harvard Medical School, Farley Basement Box 127, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 USA.


The sizes of the effects observed in studies that rely on neurobehavioral endpoints are often small. Because the mean deficits implied are more modest in magnitude than are those that correspond to the clinical criteria used to diagnose "disease," some observers dismiss them as inconsequential. Other observers argue that the mean deficits take on greater import when viewed as effects on a population rather than on individual members of the population. Several considerations germane to an effort to reconcile these perspectives are discussed: (1) the relative sensitivity of clinical diagnoses and continuously distributed scores on neurobehavioral tests as indices of adverse effect, (2) the syndromal nature of many diagnoses in pediatric neurology and neuropsychology and the implications of shifting nosology, (3) neurobehavioral test-score changes as surrogates or as prodromes for clinically significant deficits, (4) the distinction between individual risk and population risk, and (5) the tendency of the distribution of a risk factor in a population to move up and down as a whole. The clinical and epidemiological perspectives are complementary rather than incompatible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center