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Neurotoxicology. 2015 May;48:21-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2015.02.008. Epub 2015 Mar 5.

Phthalates and neurotoxic effects on hippocampal network plasticity.

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Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada. Electronic address:
Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.


Phthalates are synthetically derived chemicals used as plasticizers in a variety of common household products. They are not chemically bound to plastic polymers and over time, easily migrate out of these products and into the environment. Experimental investigations evaluating the biological impact of phthalate exposure on developing organisms are critical given that estimates of phthalate exposure are considerably higher in infants and children compared to adults. Extensive growth and re-organization of neurocircuitry occurs during development leaving the brain highly susceptible to environmental insults. This review summarizes the effects of phthalate exposure on brain structure and function with particular emphasis on developmental aspects of hippocampal structural and functional plasticity. In general, it appears that widespread disruptions in hippocampal functional and structural plasticity occur following developmental (pre-, peri- and post-natal) exposure to phthalates. Whether these changes occur as a direct neurotoxic effect of phthalates or an indirect effect through disruption of endogenous endocrine functions is not fully understood. Comprehensive investigations that simultaneously assess the neurodevelopmental, neurotoxic, neuroendocrine and behavioral correlates of phthalate exposure are needed to provide an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the neurotoxic potential of phthalates throughout the lifespan.


Axons; Dendrites; Development; Memory; Phthalates

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