In recent years there has been heightened concern over the potential of occupational or environmental exposures to affect neurological function in children and adolescents. The current study was designed to develop computerized tests to effectively assess neurobehavioral function in Hispanic adolescents working in agriculture and to evaluate those tests in Hispanic youths working in agriculture and in a non-agricultural group. After exclusions, 96 adolescents currently working in agriculture (AG) and 51 adolescents currently non-migratory and not working in agriculture (Non-AG) were tested. Neurobehavioral tests were selected from the computerized Behavioral Assessment and Research System. AG test performance was significantly below Non-AG performance on the cognitive tests. However, educational and cultural differences between the AG and Non-AG groups may explain this difference. Repeat testing of the AG group revealed substantially improved performance, further supporting educational or cultural differences as an explanation for the group differences. Together, these results expose the limitations in case-control or cross-sectional designs for testing migrant worker populations in the United States. Longitudinal or cross-sectional designs with repeat testing offer more promise and may be essential for drawing accurate conclusions in migrant worker groups where there are no truly equivalent comparison or control groups.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.