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  1. Science & Research (NCTR)

Neurotoxicology

Neurotoxicology

Director: Sherry Ferguson, Ph.D.

NCTR Imaging Center

Introduction

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in four American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year and that one in three will experience some form of mental disorder during their lifetime. Fifty-million Americans have a permanent brain disability that limits their daily activities. The number of persons suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other brain diseases is increasing dramatically as our population ages.

Division Capability and Research Focus

The Division of Neurotoxicology focuses on increasing FDA’s understanding of the processes associated with neurotoxic outcomes—harmful effects associated with the brain and nervous system. This increased understanding may provide opportunities for improved risk assessments and identification of new approaches to diagnosis. The Division’s strategy has been to use a broad range of research approaches that capitalize on the expertise of personnel in diverse areas of neuroscience and other scientific disciplines.

The Division is continually expanding its capabilities in the area of imaging by adding both microPET (positron emission tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) instruments along with trained personnel. These innovative imaging technologies give researchers a unique way to monitor brain and nervous-system activity with minimal discomfort to the study subject.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machine

Other unique features of the Division’s research capabilities include the ability to:

  1. determine chemical concentrations and cellular-level interactions in target tissue
  2. determine changes in gene and protein expression associated with chemical exposures
  3. effect high-throughput, comprehensive cognitive or behavioral assessments
  4. employ multiple species including nonhuman primates, rodents, and, in some cases, humans, in the risk-assessment process to reduce the uncertainty associated with extrapolating findings across species
  5. develop novel histochemical tracers to aid in the evaluation of chemical-induced pathologies

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The NCTR Annual Report provides information on the latest accomplishments and plans for the Division of Neurotoxicology as well as project and publication listings for NCTR.