An Overview of Behavioral Toxicology

  • P. B. Dews
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 5)


Let us define behavioral toxicology as the science dealing with the effects of nontherapeutic, nonphysiological chemicals on the behavior of more or less intact subjects. Its importance is so obvious today as to be apparent to both the man on the street and to the Congress. The very obviousness of its practical importance has tended to overshadow its scientific potential, but in an overview one can see through the overshadow. I have been arguing for years that a major scientific contribution of behavioral pharmacology is to the analysis of the organization of behavioral functions, just as some of the most important scientific contributions of pharmacology generally have been in the analysis of the organization of physiological, including biochemical and biophysical, mechanisms. Most of the drugs used in analysis of physiological functions have been poisons rather than therapeutic drugs: Claude Bernard used curare; strychnine and nicotine have been much exploited; and iodoacetate and tetrodotoxin are useful. When Reid Hunt synthesized acetylcholine his paper was entitled-freely paraphrased-a new bunch of poisons, some of horrendous potency. The chemicals that will be valuable in analysis of behavioral functions will mostly be poisons rather than therapeutic drugs.


Therapeutic Drug Behavioral Function Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Behavioral Pharmacology Behavioral Toxi 
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Copyright information

© University of Rochester 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. B. Dews
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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