Objectives We demonstrated recently that the T1 relaxation rate (R1) captured short-term Mn exposure in welders with chronic, relatively low exposure levels in a cross-sectional study. In the current study, we used a longitudinal design to examine whether R1 values reflect the short-term dynamics of Mn exposure. Methods Twenty-nine welders were evaluated at baseline and 12 months. Occupational questionnaires estimated short-term welding exposure using welding hours in the 90 days prior to each study visit (HrsW90). In addition, blood Mn levels, the pallidal index (PI; globus pallidus T1-weighted intensity (T1WI)/frontal white matter T1WI), and R1 values in brain regions of interest (ROIs) were determined as Mn biomarkers at each visit. Associations between changes in estimated welding exposure and changes in purported Mn biomarkers were assessed by Spearman's correlations with adjustment for age and baseline R1, HrsW90, and blood Mn values. Results Changes in welding hours (HrsW90: the short-term welding exposure estimate), was associated significantly with changes in R1 values in the putamen (r = 0.541, p = 0.005), caudate (R = 0.453, p = 0.023), globus pallidus (R = 0.430, p = 0.032), amygdala (R = 0.461, p = 0.020), and hippocampus (R = 0.447, p = 0.025), but not with changes in blood Mn levels or the PI. Discussion Changes in R1 values correlated with changes in the short-term welding exposure estimate, but not with more traditional measures of Mn exposure (blood Mn levels or PI). These results suggest that R1 may serve as a useful marker to capture the short-term dynamics in Mn brain accumulation related to welding exposure.
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