The possibility has been raised by the studies conducted in China that fluoride can lower intellectual abilities. Thus, studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride in drinking water should include measurements of reasoning ability, problem solving, IQ, and short-and long-term memory. Care should be taken to ensure that proper testing methods are used, that all sources of exposure to fluoride are assessed, and that comparison populations have similar cultures and socioeconomic status.
Studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride should be undertaken to evaluate neurochemical changes that may be associated with dementia. Consideration should be given to assessing effects from chronic exposure, effects that might be delayed or occur late-in-life, and individual susceptibility (see Chapters 2 and 3 for discussion of subpopulations that might be more susceptible to the effects of fluoride from exposure and physiologic standpoints, respectively).
Additional animal studies designed to evaluate reasoning are needed. These studies must be carefully designed to measure cognitive skills beyond rote learning or the acquisition of simple associations, and test environmentally relevant doses of fluoride.
At the present time, questions about the effects of the many histological, biochemical, and molecular changes caused by fluorides cannot be related to specific alterations in behavior or to known diseases. Additional studies of the relationship of the changes in the brain as they affect the hormonal and neuropeptide status of the body are needed. Such relationships should be studied in greater detail and under different environmental conditions.
Most of the studies dealing with neural and behavioral responses have tested NaF. It is important to determine whether other forms of fluoride (e.g., silicofluorides) produce the same effects in animal models.