Methylmercury and brain development: A review of recent literature

Alessandra Antunes dos Santos, Mariana Appel Hort, Megan Culbreth, Caridad López-Granero, Marcelo Farina, Joao B.T. Rocha, Michael Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a potent environmental pollutant, which elicits significant toxicity in humans. The central nervous system (CNS) is the primary target of toxicity, and is particularly vulnerable during development. Maternal exposure to MeHg via consumption of fish and seafood can have irreversible effects on the neurobehavioral development of children, even in the absence of symptoms in the mother. It is well documented that developmental MeHg exposure may lead to neurological alterations, including cognitive and motor dysfunction. The neurotoxic effects of MeHg on the developing brain have been extensively studied. The mechanism of toxicity, however, is not fully understood. No single process can explain the multitude of effects observed in MeHg-induced neurotoxicity. This review summarizes the most current knowledge on the effects of MeHg during nervous system development considering both, in vitro and in vivo experimental models. Considerable attention was directed towards the role of glutamate and calcium dyshomeostasis, mitochondrial dysfunction, as well as the effects of MeHg on cytoskeletal components/regulators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Developmental neurotoxicity
  • Mechanisms
  • Methylmercury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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