Manganese body burden in children is associated with reduced visual motor and attention skills

Academic Article


  • Manganese (Mn) is an essential element, however, children with moderate to high Mn exposure can exhibit neurobehavioral impairments. One way Mn appears to affect brain function is through altering dopaminergic systems involved with motor and cognitive control including frontal – striatal brain systems. Based on the risk for motor and attention problems, we evaluated neurobehavioral function in 255 children at risk for Mn exposure due to living in proximity to coal ash storage sites. Proton Induced X-ray Emissions (PIXE) analysis was conducted on finger and toenails samples. Multiple neuropsychological tests were completed with the children. Fifty-five children had Mn concentrations above the limit of detection (LOD) (median concentration = 3.95 ppm). Children with detectable Mn concentrations had reduced visual motor skills (β = −5.62, CI: −9.11, −2.12, p = 0.008) and more problems with sustained attention, based on incorrect responses on a computerized attention test, (β = 0.40, CI: 0.21, 0.59, p < 0.001) compared with children who had Mn concentrations below the LOD. Findings suggest that Mn exposure impacts attention and motor control possibly due to neurotoxicity involving basal ganglia and forebrain regions. Visual-motor and attention tests may provide a sensitive measure of Mn neurotoxicity, useful for evaluating the effects of exposure in children and leading to better treatment options.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sears L; Myers JV; Sears CG; Brock GN; Zhang C; Zierold KM
  • Volume

  • 88