While there is a long-standing tradition of using behavioral methods to study the effects of manufactured drugs and environmental chemicals, comparatively little attention has focused until recently on the behavioral effects of marine or freshwater toxins. A vast array of microorganisms, found in a variety of waters, are known to occasionally "bloom" and produce toxins that can cause either blatant toxicity (i.e., lethality) or damage to a number of organ systems. The nervous system is a known target for many of the toxins. Considerable research has in the past been carried out to determine toxin effects on the survivability of laboratory rodents (typically mice) following acute exposures. Newer research has shown, however, prominent toxin-induced alterations in motor, sensory, autonomic and cognitive functions at sublethal exposure concentrations. Future toxin research can capitalize upon a wealth of behavioral paradigms already available in toxicology, pharmacology and neuroscience.
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