Motor function in aging Great Lakes fisheaters

Susan L. Schantz, Joseph C. Gardiner, Donna M. Gasior, Anne M. Sweeney, Harold E.B. Humphrey, Robert J. McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to contaminants in Great Lakes fish has been linked to impaired neuropsychological functioning in children, but neurological function of exposed adults has not been evaluated. This report describes a cross- sectional analysis of the effects of PCB/DDE exposure from contaminated fish on fine motor function in older adults. The subjects were 50-90-year-old Michigan residents who were members of a previously established study cohort. Fisheaters ate 24 lbs or more of sport-caught Lake Michigan fish/year at the time they were originally recruited in 1980-1982. Age- and sex-matched nonfisheaters ate 6 or fewer lbs/year. Outcome measures were scores on the Static Motor Steadiness Test (SMST) and Grooved Pegboard Test (GPT). PCB/DDE exposure was determined through serum analyses performed at the time of recruitment into the present study in 1993-1995. Because of the high correlation between serum PCB and DDE levels in this sample (Spearman r = 0.64, P < 0.0001), the effects of the two contaminants were assessed jointly using a single derived exposure variable: Low = both PCB and DDE at or below the medians of their respective distributions, intermediate = PCB and/or DDE in the third quartile, and high = PCB and/or DDE in the upper quartile. In unadjusted analyses, high exposure to PCBs/DDE was associated with significantly poorer performance on the GPT (P = 0.03). However, in the multiple regression model, age and gender emerged as the most significant factors affecting GPT scores, and exposure to PCB/DDE was not significant. Performance on the SMST was not related to PCB/DDE exposure in initial unadjusted analyses, but performance with the dominant hand was marginally (P=0.052) associated with exposure in the final model. Scores on the SMST improved slightly as PCB/DDE exposure increased. A similar trend was not observed for the nondominant hand (P = 0.46). These findings suggest that PCB/DDE exposure from Great Lakes fish has not significantly impaired hand steadiness or visual-motor coordination in this sample of older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S46-S56
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - 1999


  • Aging
  • DDE
  • Great Lakes fish
  • Motor function
  • PCBs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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