Neurotoxicity in acute and repeated organophosphate exposure

Sean X. Naughton, Alvin V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


The term organophosphate (OP) refers to a diverse group of chemicals that are found in hundreds of products worldwide. As pesticides, their most common use, OPs are clearly beneficial for agricultural productivity and the control of deadly vector-borne illnesses. However, as a consequence of their widespread use, OPs are now among the most common synthetic chemicals detected in the environment as well as in animal and human tissues. This is an increasing environmental concern because many OPs are highly toxic and both accidental and intentional exposures to OPs resulting in deleterious health effects have been documented for decades. Some of these deleterious health effects include a variety of long-term neurological and psychiatric disturbances including impairments in attention, memory, and other domains of cognition. Moreover, some chronic illnesses that manifest these symptoms such as Gulf War Illness and Aerotoxic Syndrome have (at least in part) been attributed to OP exposure. In addition to acute acetylcholinesterase inhibition, OPs may affect a number of additional targets that lead to oxidative stress, axonal transport deficits, neuroinflammation, and autoimmunity. Some of these targets could be exploited for therapeutic purposes. The purpose of this review is thus to: 1) describe the important uses of organophosphate (OP)-based compounds worldwide, 2) provide an overview of the various risks and toxicology associated with OP exposure, particularly long-term neurologic and psychiatric symptoms, 3) discuss mechanisms of OP toxicity beyond cholinesterase inhibition, 4) review potential therapeutic strategies to reverse the acute toxicity and long term deleterious effects of OPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerotoxic syndrome
  • Agriculture
  • Cholinesterase inhibitor
  • Gulf war illness
  • Memory
  • Pesticide


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