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Duke University

Superfund Research Program

Neurobehavioral Toxicity Core

Project Leader: Edward D. Levin
Grant Number: P42ES010356
Funding Period: 2011-2022

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The Neurobehavioral Toxicity Core (NBTC) provides tests of neurobehavioral function for the animal model studies in the projects of the Duke Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. The spectrum of neurobehavioral assessment includes sensitive and validated tests of sensorimotor performance, emotional response, and cognition using zebrafish, killifish, rats, and C. elegans. Assessment of spontaneous movement and motor responsiveness to sensory input at younger and older ages is complemented by more complex tests of persisting neurobehavioral effects conducted in adolescence and adulthood including assessment of learning and memory, fear and anxiety, and social behavior. The tests are largely automated using computer driven operant and maze tasks in rats and computerized video tracking systems in the zebrafish, killifish and C. elegans.

The NBTC is behaviorally assessing the animals exposed in the individual research projects and providing those projects with the statistical analyses of the outcome documenting short and long-term neurobehavioral impairments. The NBTC behavioral test batteries are tailored to provide sensitive and reliable assessments to the neurotoxicity of early-life exposure effects on later-life function. The NBTC continues to innovate to develop a broader spectrum of behavioral assessment tests as well as provide quicker through-put without sacrificing data quality. Functional behavioral effects can provide among the most sensitive indicators of developmental toxicity in animal models for risk assessment. Behavioral dysfunction is also among the most prevalent indicators of developmental toxicity in humans. The cognitive and emotional function tests can provide outcome measures very relevant to humans. The NBTC provides other Duke SRP Center projects with critical behavioral information about the functional meaning of the developmental toxicity they are investigating.

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