Environmental exposures have been linked to childhood problems with overactivity, attention, and impulse control, and an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Two approaches to identify these types of exposure-related neurobehavioral problems include the use of computerized tests, such as the Behavioral Assessment and Research System (BARS), as well as the use of behavior rating scales. To assess comparability of these two types of measures, we analyzed data from 281 children aged 6 to 14 years enrolled in a 5-year research study investigating coal ash exposure and neurobehavioral health. All children lived in proximity of coal ash storage sites. We administered six computer tests from the BARS and obtained behavior measures from the parent-completed Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) ADHD DSM oriented scale. BARS test performance was associated with age indicating that the tests could be used to evaluate neurodevelopmental changes over time or across a wide age range. Tests within the BARS including Continuous Performance (CPT) false alarm (standardized estimate 1.57, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.67, 2.48), adjusted p = 0.006), Selective Attention (SAT) wrong count (standardized estimate 2.8, 95% CI (1.17, 4.44), adjusted p = 0.006), and SAT proportion correct (standardized estimate -2.45, 95% CI (-4.01, -0.88), adjusted p = 0.01) were associated with attention and impulse control problems on the CBCL after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Findings support that the BARS can contribute to research on environmental exposures by assessing subclinical behaviors related to ADHD such as sustained attention, impulse control, response inhibition, associative learning, and short-term memory. Future research can examine relationships of these BARS measures with biomarkers of neurotoxic exposures related to living near coal ash storage sites to better identify the potential risk for ADHD-related behaviors among children living near coal ash storage sites.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.