Étude de l'impact des contaminants environnementaux sur le développement des fonctions cérébrales

 

Dave Saint-Amour

Centre de recherche du CHU Ste-Justine

 

Domaine : Santé de la mère, des enfants et des adolescents

Programme Chercheurs-boursiers - Senior

Concours 2016-2017

Health Canada now regards exposure to environmental contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, pesticides and flame retardants) as a significant health risk factor, particularly for brain and cognitive health. Many studies have shown alterations in neurobehaviour and cognitive functions in children exposed to environmental contaminants. However, a number of research questions remain unanswered regarding the nature of the observed deficits. On the one hand, we do not know the physiopathological mechanisms by which contaminants alter the development of brain functions. On the other hand, the generalization of the studies to date, particularly those conducted in minority ethnic and/or low-income groups must be verified. For instance, it is possible that socioeconomic inequalities act as moderator variables, i.e., affect the direction and/or strength of the relation between the contaminants and the outcomes. It is thus important to know whether the harmful effects of contaminants on health also apply to the general population, which is exposed to lower levels of contaminants, real nonetheless.

The goal of the present research program is to advance our understanding of the brain function alterations associated with ubiquitous environmental contaminant exposure in the context of an entire lifespan, with a particular interest in the influence of sociodemographic factors. Firstly, using neuroimaging techniques, we aim to study the impact of contaminant exposure to contaminants on brain function in children in two prospective, well-documented cohorts: one from northern Quebec (Nunavik) and the other from the Central Québec region (general population). Secondly, because vision has been found to be a good proxy of environmental neurotoxicity, we aim to determine the extent to which visual dysfunctions found in the general population are associated with exposure to environmental contaminants, either in children, adults or the elderly. This project has the potential to propose new neurotoxic biomarkers associated with environmental contaminants.