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Environ Sci Eur. 2018;30(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12302-018-0173-x. Epub 2018 Dec 14.

An ecotoxicological view on neurotoxicity assessment.

Author information

1Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Ecosystem Analysis, ABBt-Aachen Biology and Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
2Environment and Health, VU University, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3FAME-Freshwater and Marine Ecology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94248, 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
4Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), University of Luxembourg, 6 Avenue du Swing, 4367 Belvaux, Luxembourg.
National Center for Computational Toxicology, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 109 T.W. Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27711 USA.
6KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Groningenhaven 7, 3433 PE Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.
7Department Effect-Directed Analysis, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, Leipzig, Germany.
8Ifremer, UMR MARBEC, Laboratoire Adaptation et Adaptabilités des Animaux et des Systèmes, Route de Maguelone, 34250 Palavas-les-Flots, France.
9INRA, UMR GABI, INRA, AgroParisTech, Domaine de Vilvert, Batiment 231, 78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France.
10Ifremer, Laboratoire Ressources Halieutiques, Place Gaby Coll, 17137 L'Houmeau, France.
Department of Technology, Research and Engineering, Waternet Institute for the Urban Water Cycle, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
12Laboratory of Evolutionary and Adaptive Physiology, Institute of Life, Earth and Environment, University of Namur, 5000 Namur, Belgium.
13Department of Cell Toxicology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.
14Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Environmental Toxicology, Center for Applied Geosciences, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.
15MTM Research Centre, School of Science and Technology, Örebro University, Fakultetsgatan 1, 70182 Örebro, Sweden.
Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Stephanstrasse 7, 64295 Darmstadt, Germany.
17Swiss Centre for Applied Ecotoxicology Eawag-EPFL, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.
18Zebrafishlab, Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium.
19Institute for Biology II, Department of Chemosensation, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
Zweckverband Landeswasserversorgung, Langenau, Germany.
21Department of Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology, UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany.
22Department of Environmental Toxicology, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, Dübendorf, 8600 Switzerland.
23Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
24Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA.
Institute of Physiology (Neurophysiology), Aachen, Germany.
Section Toxicology of Drinking Water and Swimming Pool Water, Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Heinrich-Heine-Str. 12, 08645 Bad Elster, Germany.


The numbers of potential neurotoxicants in the environment are raising and pose a great risk for humans and the environment. Currently neurotoxicity assessment is mostly performed to predict and prevent harm to human populations. Despite all the efforts invested in the last years in developing novel in vitro or in silico test systems, in vivo tests with rodents are still the only accepted test for neurotoxicity risk assessment in Europe. Despite an increasing number of reports of species showing altered behaviour, neurotoxicity assessment for species in the environment is not required and therefore mostly not performed. Considering the increasing numbers of environmental contaminants with potential neurotoxic potential, eco-neurotoxicity should be also considered in risk assessment. In order to do so novel test systems are needed that can cope with species differences within ecosystems. In the field, online-biomonitoring systems using behavioural information could be used to detect neurotoxic effects and effect-directed analyses could be applied to identify the neurotoxicants causing the effect. Additionally, toxic pressure calculations in combination with mixture modelling could use environmental chemical monitoring data to predict adverse effects and prioritize pollutants for laboratory testing. Cheminformatics based on computational toxicological data from in vitro and in vivo studies could help to identify potential neurotoxicants. An array of in vitro assays covering different modes of action could be applied to screen compounds for neurotoxicity. The selection of in vitro assays could be guided by AOPs relevant for eco-neurotoxicity. In order to be able to perform risk assessment for eco-neurotoxicity, methods need to focus on the most sensitive species in an ecosystem. A test battery using species from different trophic levels might be the best approach. To implement eco-neurotoxicity assessment into European risk assessment, cheminformatics and in vitro screening tests could be used as first approach to identify eco-neurotoxic pollutants. In a second step, a small species test battery could be applied to assess the risks of ecosystems.


AOP; Behaviour; Computational toxicity; EDA; Eco-neurotoxicity; Ecological; Neurotoxicity; REACH; Species

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