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    Ingestion of organophosphate (OP) pesticides is a common method of self-harm in developing countries. Apart from acute cholinergic effects, limited evidence implicates OP poisoning in long-term neurocognitive deficits. However, prospective neurophysiological evidence of long-term deficits is scarce in humans. We aimed to determine long-term cognitive changes of acute OP pesticide self-poisoning in a prospective follow-up study, using event-related potentials (ERPs), an electroencephalographic index of cognitive functioning. We recruited 203 patients (147 men) hospitalised with OP pesticide ingestion (OP group; all had significant erythrocyte cholinesterase inhibition) and 50 patients (23 men) with paracetamol overdose (control group) as a means of self-harm. We recorded their ERPs and behavioural performance in a selective attention task at three post-exposure time points: on discharge from hospital (around 14 days post-ingestion), 6 weeks and 6 months post-ingestion. We compared the reaction time and ERP components of the two groups at each time point, adjusting for sex, age, education and comorbid depression in multiple regression models. OP group had significantly slower reaction times than the control group on discharge and at 6 weeks, but not at 6 months. On discharge, the OP group also showed significantly prolonged latency of the parietal P3b component, signifying delayed attentional processing. P3b amplitudes were also significantly smaller in the OP group on discharge and at 6 months. Within the OP group, greater clinical severity of poisoning was associated with smaller P3b amplitudes. Early pre-attentive cortical processing (as indexed by N1 ERP component) showed no significant intergroup differences. Acute OP pesticide poisoning was associated with impaired behavioural and neurophysiological indices of selective attention. These deficits outlast the cholinergic phase of intoxication. The neurobehavioral impairment disappears over months, but neurophysiological deficits seem to last even after 6 months. This impairment could potentially compromise the performance and safety of patients for months following clinical recovery.


    Tharaka L Dassanayake, Vajira S Weerasinghe, Indika B Gawarammana, Nicholas A Buckley. Changes of attention-related brain activity over 6 months after acute organophosphate pesticide poisoning: a prospective follow-up study. Clinical toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.). 2022 May;60(5):576-584

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    PMID: 34904500

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