Objective: To characterize the association between environmental (residential air) manganese (Mn) exposure and cognitive performance, focusing on cognitive control, in a Black African population. Methods: We administered the Go-No-Go, Digit Span, and Matrix Reasoning tests to population-based samples age ≥40 from a high Mn (smelter) exposed community, Meyerton (N = 629), and a demographically comparable low (background levels) non-exposed community, Ethembalethu, (N = 96) in Gauteng province, South Africa. We investigated the associations between community and performance on the cognitive tests, using linear regression. We adjusted a priori for age and sex, and examined the effect of adjustment for education, nonverbal IQ, smoking, and alcohol consumption. We measured airborne PM2.5-Mn to confirm community exposure differences. Results: Compared to Ethembalethu residents, Meyerton residents’ test scores were lower (poorer) for all tests: 0.55 (95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.08, 1.03) lower scores for Matrix Reasoning, 0.34 (95 % CI -0.07, 0.75) lower for Digit Span, and 0.15 (95 % CI 0.09, 0.21) lower for Go-No-Go (high frequency discriminability index [probability]). The latter represented the most marked difference in terms of z-scores (0.50, 95 % CI 0.30, 0.71 standard deviations lower). The mean of the z-score of each of the three tests was also lower (0.34, 95 % CI 0.18, 0.50 standard deviations lower). These associations were similar in men and women, but attenuated with adjustment for education. Differences for Matrix Reasoning and Digit Span between the two communities were observed only among those who had lived in Meyerton ≥10 years, whereas for Go-No-Go, differences were also apparent among those who had lived in Meyerton <10 years. Mean PM2.5-Mn at a long-term fixed site in Meyerton was 203 ng/m3 and 10 ng/m3 in Ethembalethu. Conclusion: Residence in a community near a high Mn emission source is associated with cognitive dysfunction, including aspects of cognitive control as assessed by the Go-No-Go test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Cognitive function
  • Environmental exposure
  • Epidemiology
  • Manganese
  • Neurotoxicity


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