Comparison of Potential Adjustment Variables Representing Primary Intellectual Level in Epidemiological Studies on Neurotoxicity


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Abstract

BackgroundPrimary intellectual abilities (PIA) are a confounder in epidemiological studies on neurotoxicity. A good measure of this confounder should be independent of age as PIA is an intrinsic ability. Furthermore, as PIA is related to health endpoints, any measure of PIA should reveal this association. This study is aimed at comparing vocabulary test, diploma and age at end of schooling properties as measures of PIA in a non-exposed population of workers.MethodsThe design was a cross-sectional study of 413 non-exposed workers (203 women and 210 men) selected from a health check-up center. The effect of age on the vocabulary score was assessed using an analysis of covariance adjusted for diploma. Relationships between neuropsychological performances and vocabulary score, diploma and end of schooling age were, respectively, assessed using multiple linear regressions adjusted for age and gender.ResultsVocabulary score increased significantly with age, both for men and women. The increase was 0.14 word per year for women, and 0.18 word per year for men. The explained variance of the models evaluating the relationships between age at end of schooling, diploma, vocabulary test, and neuropsychological performances was quite similar for the three measures of PIA.ConclusionsVocabulary score was found to be age-related, even after adjustment for diploma. No difference was found between these three variables in terms of their relationship to neuropsychological endpoints. Moreover, the literature shows that vocabulary test performances are influenced by exposure to neurotoxic agents. These results suggest that vocabulary score could be of interest for participants of similar ages and similar diplomas. Otherwise, the other two variables would be better PIA measures in neurotoxicology studies.

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