Investigating Links Between Pesticides and Mental Health

What are the links between mood disorders and a type of pesticide called Organophosphates? One Open University PhD student explains their research.

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By Lite-Trac (Lite-Trac) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license

What are Organophosphates?

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Multiple routes for the spread of pesticides. Roy Bateman at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license

Evidence for a Link to Psychiatric Disorders

Unsurprisingly, some of the most striking evidence for organophosphate-related disorders comes from groups known to be at higher risk of exposure. These include agricultural workers, who may experience what is known as chronic organophosphate-induced neuropsychiatric disorder (COPIND). Many War veterans from the 1991 Iraq conflict have suffered from Gulf War Illness (GWI), and similar symptoms were experienced by civilians following a Sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995.

Using C. elegans to Investigate Neurobiological Mechanisms

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Fluorescent neurons in the head of C. elegans. Copyright: McMullan Lab
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Signals are passed between brain cells (neurons) in the form of various neurotransmitters. Here, the neurotransmitter serotonin (pink triangles) is released from the top cell and detected by receptors on the bottom cell. When the signal is complete, serotonin is taken back up to the first cell by a transporter. Antidepressant medicines like Prozac work by preventing this reuptake and allowing the signal to persist for longer. Copyright free: By National Institute on Drug Abuse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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