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Dementia & Neuropsychologia

Print version ISSN 1980-5764


ZACHI, Elaine Cristina; TAUB, Anita; FARIA, Marcília de Araújo Medrado  and  VENTURA, Dora Fix. Neuropsychological alterations in mercury intoxication persist several years after exposure. Dement. neuropsychol. [online]. 2008, vol.2, n.2, pp.91-95. ISSN 1980-5764.

Elemental mercury is a liquid toxic metal widely used in industry. Occupational exposure occurs mainly via inhalation. Previously, neuropsychological assessment detected deficits in former workers of a fluorescent lamp plant who had been exposed to elemental mercury vapor and were away from exposure for several years at the time of examination.


The purpose of this work was to reexamine these functions after 18 months in order to evaluate their progression.


Thirteen participants completed tests of attention, inhibitory control, verbal/visual memory, psychomotor speed, verbal fluency, visuomotor ability, executive function, semantic knowledge, and depression and anxiety inventories on 2 separate occasions.


At baseline, the former workers indicated slower psychomotor and information processing speed, verbal spontaneous recall memory impairment, and increased depression and anxiety symptoms compared to controls (P<0.05). Paired comparisons of neuropsychological functioning within the exposed group at baseline and 1.5 years later showed poorer immediate memory performance (P<0.05). There were no differences on other measures.


Although the literature show signs of recovery of functions, the neuropsychological effects related to mercury exposure are found to persist for many years.

Keywords : mercury; occupational exposure; cognition disorders; neuropsychological tests; mood.

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