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Lead Linked to Cognitive Decline in Elderly Men

Visuospatial and visuomotor tests most affected

THURSDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive function declines over time in elderly men with high bone lead levels, particularly on visuospatial and visuomotor tests, researchers report in the January issue of Epidemiology.

Marc G. Weisskopf, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues measured blood lead levels in 1,089 community-dwelling older men (mean age 68.7 years) and also bone lead levels in 761 of the men. The investigators examined performance on cognitive tests over a period of about eight years, with 69 percent of the men having at least one repeat test approximately 3.5 years later.

The researchers found that there was no association between cognitive function and blood or bone lead levels at any particular point in time. However, there was a greater decline in cognitive function over time in men with high lead levels in bone, particularly for performance and reaction time scores on visuospatial/visuomotor tests.

The results suggest that in a non-occupational setting, "cumulative exposure to lead can adversely affect performance on cognitive tests in the visuospatial/visuomotor domain," the authors write. They may represent "cognitive domains that are more sensitive to the effects of lead exposure."

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