The Dunedin Study - DMHDRU


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Childhood blood-lead level predicts lower general, non-selective hippocampal subfield volumes in midlife | 2024
Reuben, Aaron Knodt, Annchen R. Ireland, David Ramrakha, Sandhya Specht, ... Show all » Aaron J. Caspi, Avshalom Moffitt, Terrie E. Hariri, Ahmad R. « Hide
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2024, 281 .
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Show abstract » Millions of adults and children are exposed to high levels of lead, a neurotoxicant, each year. Recent evidence suggests that lead exposure may precipitate neurodegeneration, particularly if the exposure occurs early or late in life, with unique alterations to the structure or function of specific subfields of the hippocampus, a region involved in memory and Alzheimer’s disease. It has been proposed that specific hippocampal subfields may thus be useful biomarkers for lead-associated neurological disease. We turned to a population-representative New Zealand birth cohort where the extent of lead exposure was not confounded by social class (the Dunedin Study; born 1972–1973 and followed to age 45) to test the hypothesis that early life lead exposure (blood-lead level at age 11 years) is associated with smaller MRI-assessed gray matter volumes of specific subfields of the hippocampus at age 45 years. Among the 508 Dunedin Study members with childhood lead data and adult MRI data passing quality control (93.9 % of those with lead data who attended the age-45 assessment wave, 240[47.2 %] female), childhood blood-lead levels ranged from 4 to 31 µg/dL (M[SD]=10.9[4.6]). Total hippocampal volumes were lower among adults with higher childhood blood-lead levels (b=-102.6 mm3 per 5 ug/dL-unit greater blood-lead level, 95 %CI: −175.4 to −29.7, p=.006, β=-.11), as were all volumes of the 24 hemisphere-specific subfields of the hippocampus. Of these 24 subfields, 20 demonstrated negative lead-associations greater than β=-.05 in size, 14 were statistically significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons (pFDR<.05), and 9 remained significant after adjustment for potential confounders and multiple comparisons. Children exposed to lead demonstrate smaller volumes across all subfields of the hippocampus in midlife. The hypothesis that lead selectively impairs specific subfields of the hippocampus, or that specific subfields may be markers for lead-associated neurological disease, requires further evaluation.
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