The impacts of pesticide and nicotine exposures on functional brain networks in Latino immigrant workers

Neurotoxicology. 2017 Sep:62:138-150. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2017.06.001. Epub 2017 Jun 2.


Latino immigrants that work on farms experience chronic exposures to potential neurotoxicants, such as pesticides, as part of their work. For tobacco farmworkers there is the additional risk of exposure to moderate to high doses of nicotine. Pesticide and nicotine exposures have been associated with neurological changes in the brain. Long-term exposure to cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides, such as organophosphates and carbamates, and nicotine place this vulnerable population at risk for developing neurological dysfunction. In this study we examined whole-brain connectivity patterns and brain network properties of Latino immigrant workers. Comparisons were made between farmworkers and non-farmworkers using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data and a mixed-effects modeling framework. We also evaluated how measures of pesticide and nicotine exposures contributed to the findings. Our results indicate that despite having the same functional connectivity density and strength, brain networks in farmworkers had more clustered and modular structures when compared to non-farmworkers. Our findings suggest increased functional specificity and decreased functional integration in farmworkers when compared to non-farmworkers. Cholinesterase activity was associated with population differences in community structure and the strength of brain network functional connections. Urinary cotinine, a marker of nicotine exposure, was associated with the differences in network community structure. Brain network differences between farmworkers and non-farmworkers, as well as pesticide and nicotine exposure effects on brain functional connections in this study, may illuminate underlying mechanisms that cause neurological implications in later life.

Keywords: Brain network; Latino immigrant workers; Mixed model; Nicotine; Pesticide; Resting state fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / blood
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pesticides / pharmacology*
  • Probability
  • Regression Analysis
  • Rest
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Pesticides
  • Nicotine
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Cotinine
  • Oxygen