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FINAL REPORT: Validation of Test Methods for Assessing Neurodevelopment in Children1

Abstract

This investigation proposed to determine the sensitivity and specificity of a battery of neurodevelopmental tests for detection of outcomes representing the type of subtle neurodevelopmental deficits caused by exposure to neurotoxicants in school-aged children. The study was designed to answer the question: What is the capacity of selected tests and tasks to detect subtle effects of environmental exposures on children’s neurodevelopment? The project studied children at risk for the kinds of performance deficits these tests endeavor to measure, but who themselves had no known exposure to neurotoxicants: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) graduates, known to be at risk for both major and mild anomalies in perception, motor functioning, learning, memory and cognition. The study determined the capacity of these tests and tasks to predict these deficits. Those tests and tasks that demonstrated a high probability of predicting risk status were incorporated into a final battery. While different neurotoxicants may have different mechanisms of insult and therefore, different signature effects on behavior in children, a battery designed to encompass a broad spectrum of functions may be useful for assessing the developmental neurotoxicity of exposure to a range of chemicals hypothesized to cause compromised neurodevelopment.

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