Cognitive and psychomotor performance tests and experiment design in multiple chemical sensitivity

Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Mar;105 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):495-503. doi: 10.1289/ehp.97105s2495.


People suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) complain of a variety of symptoms that could impair cognitive and psychomotor function either directly or indirectly. This paper discusses the use of cognitive and psychomotor performance tests together with some experiment designs that could be considered for use to assess fitness of MCS sufferers for work or the efficacy of diagnostic, preventative, or therapeutic measures. The tests could also contribute to the body of objective information on MCS and help sway the opinion of those who are dubious of its authenticity. The credentials of cognitive and psychomotor performance tests are derived from their successful use in studying the effects of drugs, and the types of tests are illustrated by describing those used by the United Kingdom Defence Evaluation and Research Agency Chemical and Biological Defence Human Studies Group, which has been involved in the assessment of drugs and chemicals on work performance for many years. The tests include mathematical, verbal and spatial processing, tracking, reaction time, attention and vigilance, and memory tests. The discussion of experiment designs includes both repeated measures and parallel groups designs together with their advantages and disadvantages and some suggested modifications to accommodate the particular problems posed by MCS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Environmental Health
  • Humans
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / etiology
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / psychology*
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Research Design