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Participants for study on lead exposure sought

A Creighton University researcher looking into the effects of lead exposure on preadolescents and adolescents is seeking participants for a study on brain volume and cognitive functions for children and young teens with and without a history of lead exposure.

Maya Khanna, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology in the Creighton College of Arts and Sciences, has spent several years documenting lead exposure’s effects on the brain and has undertaken the present project in conjunction with researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The purpose of the study, Khanna said, was to understand how the healthy brain develops, how specific gene factors are related to this development, and how lead exposure may alter the course of this development.

The National Science Foundation-sponsored study is seeking children ages 9 to 15 who have never been diagnosed with a psychiatric or neurological disorder and are medically healthy.

The study involves two visits per year for two to four years, at which subjects will provide saliva samples and complete magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) scans, along with neuropsychological and cognitive assessments. Participants also are invited to contribute to Khanna’s investigation of the impact of lead exposure by submitting to a finger-prick blood lead level test during one of their visits.

Khanna is hopeful the study will help promote greater understanding of the impact of lead exposure on cognitive functioning, emotional stability and overall behavior. The study is also designed to examine if the impact of lead exposure differs across males and females. Previous studies indicate that males experience greater cognitive deficits in executive functioning as a result of early lead exposure than do females.

Khanna said Creighton and Omaha are especially prime locations for such a study, given the presence of a lead refinery in the city for more than 125 years and subsequent efforts at cleanup in the area east of 54th Street in Omaha, which includes Creighton University.

For more information or to take part in the study, contact Nichole Knott or Mackenzie Mills at the Center for Magnetoencephalography at UNMC at 402-552-6444 or email mackenzie.mills@unmc.edu.

Compensation will be provided for time and travel expenses.

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