The Application of a Computer-Controlled Time Discrimination Performance to Problems in Behavioral Toxicology
Several recent studies have focused attention on the effects on behavior of certain chemical and physical agents found in community or occupational environments. The rationale of such behavioral toxicology investigations is twofold: First, changes in behavior may serve as an early indicator of later irreversible pathological damage which could result from higher, acute dosages of the toxicant or from chronic exposure to lesser amounts of the toxic agent; and second, the effects of a toxic agent on specific behaviors vital to the well- being of the subject must be identified in order to prevent adverse effects when the behavior in question is required as part of the subject’s daily routine. In the former instance, the dose-response data are more important than the specific behavior used to demonstrate the impairment; in the latter, the specific behavior under investigation is the critical factor. An example of the first situation is the report by Hänninen (1971), who administered a battery of psychological tests to 50 viscose rayon workers poisoned by carbon disulfide (CS2), fifty workers exposed to CS2 without known poisoning, and fifty workers not exposed to CS2. Large and statistically significant differences were noted between the group means of the poisoned and the unexposed group in most performances involving speed, vigilance, manual dexterity, and intelligence. The exposed group also showed performance impairment, but to a lesser degree than the poisoned group. Hänninen concluded that CS2 apparently affects the working capacity and sociability of exposed workers earlier than can be diagnosed by purely medical means. The second type of behavioral toxicology study is illustrated by those investigations concerned with the effects of carbon monoxide on automobile driving. An example is the report by Ray and Rockwell (1970), who demonstrated the effects of carbon monoxide on certain behaviors (e.g., estimation of brakelight brightness) required of express highway driving.
KeywordsVisual Stimulus Response Latency Duration Stimulus Reference Stimulus Response Switch
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