Sharon K. Sagiv, Jennifer L. Bruno, Joseph M. Baker, Vanessa Palzes, Katherine Kogut, Stephen Rauch, Robert Gunier, Ana M. Mora, Allan L. Reiss, and Brenda Eskenazi
We have reported consistent associations of prenatal organophosphate pesticide (OP) exposure with poorer cognitive function and behavior problems in our Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), a birth cohort of Mexican American youth in California’s agricultural Salinas Valley. However, there is little evidence on how OPs affect neural dynamics underlying associations. We used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure cortical activation during tasks of executive function, attention, social cognition, and language comprehension in 95 adolescent CHAMACOS participants. We estimated associations of residential proximity to OP use during pregnancy with cortical activation in frontal, temporal, and parietal regions using multiple regression models, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. OP exposure was associated with altered brain activation during tasks of executive function. For example, with a 10-fold in- crease in total OP pesticide use within 1 km of maternal residence during pregnancy, there was a bilateral decrease in brain activation in the prefrontal cortex during a cognitive flexibility task (β = −4.74; 95% CI: −8.18, −1.31 and β = −4.40; 95% CI: −7.96, −0.84 for the left and right hemispheres, respectively). We also found that pre- natal OP exposure was associated with sex differences in brain activation during a language comprehension task. This first functional neuroimaging study of prenatal OP exposure suggests that pesticides may impact cortical brain activation, which could underlie previously reported OP-related associations with cognitive and behavioral function. Use of fNIRS in environmental epidemiology offers a practical alternative to neuroimaging technologies and enhances our efforts to assess the impact of chemical exposures on neurodevelopment.