Testing the neural sensitization and kindling hypothesis for illness from low levels of environmental chemicals.
Sensitization in the neuroscience and pharmacology literatures is defined as progressive increase in the size of a response over repeated presentations of a stimulus. Types of sensitization include stimulant drug-induced time-dependent sensitization (TDS), an animal model related to substance abuse, and limbic kindling, an animal model for temporal lobe epilepsy. Neural sensitization (primarily nonconvulsive or subconvulsive) to the adverse properties of substances has been hypothesized to underlie the initiation and subsequent elicitation of heightened sensitivity to low levels of environmental chemicals. A corollary of the sensitization model is that individuals with illness from low-level chemicals are among the more sensitizable members of the population. The Working Group on Sensitization and Kindling identified two primary goals for a research approach to this problem: to perform controlled experiments to determine whether or not sensitization to low-level chemical exposures occurs in multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) patients; and to use animal preparations for kindling and TDS as nonhomologous models for the initiation and elicitation of MCS.