Recent studies raise concern for combined exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury (MeHg), two environmental contaminants that are found in fish and seafood. Past accidental poisonings in humans show that exposure to high levels of either contaminant is associated with motor impairments, including alterations in cerebellar functions such as balance and coordination. Epidemiological studies of lower level exposures suggest some neuromotor impairment in exposed children, but the majority of these studies have focused on cognitive endpoints rather than examining a full-range of motor function. In particular, the cerebellum could be a sensitive target for combined PCB and MeHg toxicity. MeHg exposure during development damages the cerebellum along with cortical areas, and PCBs may also cause cerebellar damage via thyroid hormone disruption during development. In addition, in vitro studies report interactive effects of PCBs and MeHg on ryanodine-sensitive calcium signaling. Ryanodine receptors are found especially within the cerebellum, and alterations in calcium signaling within the cerebellum could impair long-term depression and subsequent motor learning. This article reviews the motor impairments reported in humans and laboratory animals following exposure to PCBs and/or MeHg during development. There is need for a better understanding of the interactive effects of PCBs and MeHg, especially in regard to motor function.
- Methylmercury (MeHg)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience