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Curr Opin Neurol. 1998 Dec;11(6):689-93.

Selective vulnerability of the developing brain to lead.

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Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, USA.


Environmental lead exposure in young children who ingest household paint dust or other sources impairs their potential intelligence in a linear, dose-dependent fashion in contrast to its far more subtle effects on other neurologic functions. Basic investigations have identified three interrelated steps in synaptic neurotransmission at which low levels of lead can disrupt signal processing. Lead enhances background transmitter release, but impairs stimulated release, inhibits function at the N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptor and stimulates background levels of the intracellular messenger protein kinase C. Taken together these effects have the effect of diminishing the synaptic signal to noise ratio. The ability of lead to enhance 'synaptic noise' during a critical early period of postnatal development may permanently disrupt the architecture of cortical processing units by depriving them of high resolution environmental signals needed to refine synaptic connections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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