Hyperactivity: a lead induced behavior disorder

E. K. Silbergeld, A. M. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Mice were exposed to lead from birth by substituting solutions of lead acetate for the drinking water of their mothers. The suckling mice were thus exposed to lead through their mother's milk and, at weaning, directly through the drinking water. Controls received equal concentrations of sodium acetate. No deaths of offspring or mothers occurred during the first 90 days of exposure. It has been suggested recently that lead exposure may account for some incidences of behavior disorders in children. Levels of motor activity of individual offspring were measured from weaning until 70 days of age in specially designed activity cages. Lead treated mice were more than three times as active as age matched or size matched controls. Treated and control animals were administered drugs currently used in the treatment and diagnosis of hyperactivity in children. All control animals responded as expected to all drugs used in this study. However, lead treated mice responded paradoxically to d and l amphetamine, methylphenidate, and phenobarbital. That is, the CNS stimulants suppressed their hyperactivity while phenobarbital exacerbated the lead induced hyperactivity. These findings suggest that lead produces an animal model of hyperactivity which may have clinical relevance and which may explain some cases of hyperactivity in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-232
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Volumeno. 7
StatePublished - 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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