Health Protection Research Unit for Chemical & Radiation Threats & Hazards

Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders

Chemical Exposure and Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders


This research theme will look at the health effects of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS). It aims to guide treatment of those exposed to specific chemicals. We also aim to develop methods to reduce harmful exposures.

There is increasing concern about exposures to chemicals and the development of acute and chronic health problems. In particular those affecting the nervous system.

The rise in the use of new recreational drugs, Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) (sometimes incorrectly called ‘legal highs’) has led to more emergency department admissions and reported fatalities.

The short and long term health effects of exposure to NPS are not known. However neurotoxicity has been demonstrated with chemically related substances.

Neurotoxic effects may also occur in those exposed to some pesticides. There are also links between some neurodegenerative disorders and specific chemical exposures.

Aims of the theme

This theme will:

  • detect emerging NPS associated with severe acute intoxication and determine trends in use
  • characterise the neuropsychiatric effects of exposure to implicated chemicals
  • study dose response relationships and inter-individual variation
  • determine exposure to potential neurotoxins in people with neurodegenerative disease and develop biomarkers of exposure
  • model exposure and disease outcomes in selected populations
  • develop in vitro methods for assessing neurotoxicity

This research will provide evidence to guide treatment of individuals exposed to specific chemicals. It will guide the development of methods to reduce harmful exposures in patients and public.

Theme leader: Professor Simon Thomas

Graphic showing nervous system


Recent projects in the Chemical Exposure and Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders.