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The Role of Behavioural Toxicity in Risk Assessment

Target Organ and Tissue Toxicity

  1. Bernard Weiss PhD

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat059

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Weiss, B. 2009. The Role of Behavioural Toxicity in Risk Assessment. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. University of Rochester, Medical Center, Department of Environmental Medicine, Rochester, New York, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Behaviour is now established as a fundamental dimension of toxicity and risk assessment. It emerged as a criterion of adverse effects because many questions about health risks centred on measures such as IQ and other neuropsychological indices. Methylmercury and lead risks are quantified in such terms and clinical entities such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are basically behavioural disorders. Behavioural methods, as a consequence, are essential research tools for determining the risks of exposure to environmental chemicals, for studying the mechanisms by which drugs act on nervous system diseases and for determining the potential of new pharmaceuticals to alter behaviour, either therapeutically or adversely. To fulfil these roles effectively, behavioural research must examine a variety of end points. These range from naturalistic behaviours, such as those involved in reproduction, to activity patterns, to motor and sensory function and to complex cognitive processes. At the same time, behavioural methods must encompass techniques applicable to both laboratory animals and humans.


  • psychological tests;
  • schedule-controlled operant behaviour;
  • cognitive function;
  • locomotor activity;
  • functional observation battery;
  • naturalistic behaviours;
  • motor function;
  • sensory function