Bisphenol A stops formation of brain cell connections in monkeys

Sep 15, 2008

Leranth, C, T Hajszan, K Szigeti-Buck, J Bober and NJ MacLusky. 2008. Bisphenol A prevents the synaptogenic response to estradiol in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of ovariectomized nonhuman primates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:13705-13706.

Synopsis by Martha Susiarjo

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated experimentally a strong effect of low doses of bisphenol A on monkeys, raising new concerns about possible effects on people. After a month of continuous low-dose exposure, the ability of the monkeys brains to form key connections was eliminated. The study suggests that BPA exposure may be related to human brain disorders and diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and mood disorders.


In the first study of BPA using monkeys, Canadian scientists report that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to manufacture plastics, disrupts brain development by interfering with the formation of connections between nerves.  These disorders, when they occur in humans, are associated with mood disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia. People are widely exposed to low levels on a daily basis because of the chemicals abundant use in consumer products, food and water containers, dental sealants and carbonless paper. Adverse health effects of BPA at levels similar to human exposure have been strongly demonstrated in laboratory animals – some of these abnormalities include increased cancer incidence, decreased reproductive performance, and abnormal brain function.

The hormone estrogen has long been known to play a role in brain cell formation. Because BPA mimics the action of estrogen in people, scientists are concerned that BPA might also interfere with brain development. In the present study, a group of scientists led by Dr. Neil MacLusky from Ontario Veterinary College in Canada studied effects of BPA exposure on brain development in a population of African green monkeys. They examined whether BPA exposure during brain development interfered with cell growth and the process in which cells connect and communicate with each other in different regions of the brain. Their results demonstrate that BPA significantly disrupts these critical processes in all regions examined. This is the first study to show that BPA is capable to disrupt brain function in a nonhuman primate. Findings of this study implicate the ability of BPA to interfere with normal function of brain cells and that its exposure may be related to neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders in humans.