Manganese (Mn) plays an essential role in normal growth and development; however, overexposure to Mn can result in neurotoxicity. This dual role of Mn as essential mineral and neurotoxicant appears as a biphasic dose-response curve for neurodevelopmental health outcomes in children. Children may be particularly susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of ambient Mn exposure, as their brains are undergoing a dynamic process of growth, differentiation, pathway direction, and apoptosis, all of which can be influenced by environmental factors. Recent developments in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) can provide novel, quantitative information about the effects of Mn on brain anatomy and physiology; yet these imaging methods have never been applied to an adolescent population exposed to chronic ambient Mn. Given the role of Mn as both nutrient and neurotoxicant, we anticipate that biomarkers of Mn exposure will exhibit a biphasic dose- response association with adolescent neurobehavior, neuromotor function, brain anatomy and physiology, and hypothesize that both low (1st quartile) and high (4th quartile) levels of exposure will be significantly associated with deficits in these domains. This overarching hypothesis will be addressed through two specific aims.
Specific Aim 1 : Evaluate neurodevelopment with historic and current biomarkers of Mn in a cohort of rural adolescents in order to evaluate the impact of Mn from essential to excess on executive function, attention and reaction time, cognition, achievement, behavior, and neuromotor status.
Specific Aim 2 : Conduct a sub-study of adolescents based on previously determined Mn biomarkers using quantitative MRI/S in order to evaluate the effects of Mn exposure from essential to excess on neuroanatomy, metabolism, organization, function and connectivity. Neuroimaging outcomes (volume, metabolite concentrations, metrics for diffusion tensor, functional activation, and network connectivity) will be compared with historic and current biomarkers of Mn. This well-characterized longitudinal cohort study of adolescents will advance our understanding of the impact of Mn on neurodevelopment, and brain anatomy and physiology using innovative MRI methodologies. These patterns may be useful in defining the lines of essential benefit and neurotoxicological harm from Mn. The findings from this study will have regional, national and global implications for advancement of neuroscience and will be used to inform policy related to Mn in gasoline and ambient air standards. This proposal leverages the only cohort available in the United States that can directly address these aims.

Public Health Relevance

This study will innovatively examine the impact of manganese exposure, along with other known neurotoxicants, including lead and environmental tobacco smoke, in a follow-up study of a rural, Appalachian cohort. We will examine the impact of these exposures on neurobehavior, postural balance and gait, brain anatomy and physiology.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Neurological, Aging and Musculoskeletal Epidemiology (NAME)
Program Officer
Gray, Kimberly A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Kentucky
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
Zip Code
Vollet, Kaitlin; Haynes, Erin N; Dietrich, Kim N (2016) Manganese Exposure and Cognition Across the Lifespan: Contemporary Review and Argument for Biphasic Dose-Response Health Effects. Curr Environ Health Rep 3:392-404