The Effect of Blood Lead Concentration on EEG, Brain Electrical Activity Mapping and Psychological Test Results in Children
The relationship between low-level childhood lead exposure and developmental retardation has been proposed but the existing evidence is weak. We examined the EEG of 42 children participating in the Mexico City Prospective Lead Study to determine if relative theta power and distribution across the scalp was related to history of lifetime lead exposure as measured by sequential blood lead concentration of the mother during pregnancy and the child after delivery. EEG was recorded from scalp electrodes placed according to the 10-20 system during eyes-closed. Theta activity (4-7 Hz) was filtered with a fast Fourier transform (FFT) and relative power calculated. The expected distribution of theta was found, with the greatest relative power centrally located and lesser amounts at frontal, occipital, and lateral derivations. Multiple regression models of theta at each electrode showed that increasing postnatal blood lead from 6 to 96 months was related to increasing relative theta power adjusted for age, sex and fetal suffering at delivery, in occipital derivations. The most significant increases in theta power were associated with blood lead levels (geometric mean = 10.3 microg/dl) measured between 54 and 72 months. Spatially weighted regression demonstrated that there was a significant antero-posterior gradient in lead-induced increase in relative theta power associated with postnatal blood lead levels at 54-72 months and 78-96 months. The greatest lead effect on both occipital relative theta power and the antero-posterior gradient of theta power was found with lead at an age during which relative theta power reaches its developmental maximum and starts to decrease. Results suggest that 54-72 months represent a critical period during which lead can exert lasting effects on the developmental pattern of theta activity. Occipital derivation of the largest effects of lead on theta activity may also be related to other lead-related developmental deficits.