Marc Weisskopf

Marc Weisskopf

Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology

Department of Environmental Health
Department of Epidemiology


ScB, Neuroscience, Brown University, 1989
PhD, Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, 1994
ScD, Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 2006

Selected Professional Affiliations

International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
American Academy of Neurology
International Society For Autism Research


My research interests mostly come from my background in neurobiology. I am interested in how environmental factors affect the nervous system, as well as the epidemiology of neurologic disorders. Current areas of my work include how environmental exposures relate to:

  • cognitive function,
  • psychiatric disorders,
  • autism,
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and
  • Parkinson’s disease (PD)

Some examples of my current work are exploring how exposure to, e.g., lead, manganese, and air pollution affect cognitive function and psychiatric symptoms; how exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam relate to the development of PD; and how formaldehyde and lead exposure relate to the development of ALS.

Although not exclusively, much of my work is conducted within large cohorts.  I have worked on risk factors for ALS mortality using the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II cohort, which had been the largest prospective cohort study of risk factors for ALS with a cohort size of over 1 million.  I am now exploring risk factors for ALS within the entire Danish population using their Registry system, and in the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, a US-representative cohort of 2.4 million.  I am currently exploring the relation between air pollution exposures and risk of autism among children of women in the Nurses’ Health Study 2, and between air pollution and psychological symptoms in the Nurses’ Health Study 1.  I also work with the Normative Aging Study cohort, a cohort of community-dwelling men in the Greater Boston area.

An important direction of my research involves developing new ways of examining impacts on the nervous system. My past laboratory research examined the cellular and molecular mechanisms of plasticity in different areas of the brain, processes that are believed to underlie learning, memory, and emotional regulation at the behavioral level. I am building on this background to develop new biomarkers of effects on the nervous system in humans that may be earlier indicators—and potentially more sensitive ones—of adverse effects. I am the principal investigator of a grant to examine the effects of lead exposure on physiological measures of a simple form of learning: conditioning of the acoustic startle reflex. This form of learning relies on biological processes that are the same as those thought to underlie other forms of learning and memory; is independent of conscious processing and so likely avoids many of the biases inherent in assessing cognitive function by other means; is readily applied in different cultural settings; has direct parallels in animal models, thus facilitating comparison with that literature; and additionally may have important implications for anxiety and other emotional disturbances in humans. In addition, I am exploring the use of brain imaging techniques to examine effects of environmental toxicants on the brain.

See “Sites of Note” for reports and videos on some of this work.

Selected Publications

Seals RM, Hansen J, Gredal O, Weisskopf MG. Age-period-cohort analysis of trends in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Denmark, 1970-2009. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Oct 15;178(8):1265-71.

Weisskopf MG, Moisan F, Tzourio C, Rathouz PJ, Elbaz A. Pesticide exposure and depression among agricultural workers in France. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2013 Oct 1;178(7):1051-8.

Roberts AL, Kristen L, Hart JE, Laden F, Just AC, Bobb JF, Koenen KC, Ascherio A, Weisskopf MG. Perinatal exposure to air pollution is associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorder. Environ. Health Perspect. 2013 Aug;121(8):978-84.

Roberts AL, Lyall K, Rich-Edwards JW, Ascherio A, Weisskopf MG. Association of maternal exposure to childhood abuse with elevated risk of autism in offspring. JAMA Psychiatry 70(5):508-515, 2013.

Grashow R, Miller MW, McKinney A, NieLH, SparrowD, Hu H, Weisskopf MG. Lead exposure and fear-potentiated startle in the VA Normative Aging Study: A pilot study of a novel physiological approach to investigating neurotoxicant effects. Neurotoxicol. Teratol., 38C:21-28, 2013.

Eum KD, Korrick SA, Weuve J, Okereke O, Kubzansky LD, Hu H, Weisskopf MG. Relation of chronic low-level lead exposure to depressive and phobic anxiety symptoms in women. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jun;120(6):817-23.

LaohaudomchokW, Lin X, Herrick RF, Fang SC, Cavallari JM, Christiani DC, Weisskopf MG. Toenail, blood and urine as biomarkers of manganese exposure. J. Occup. Environ. Med. 53(5):506-10, 2011.

Nie LH, Sanchez S, Newton K, Grodzins L, Cleveland R, Weisskopf MG. In vivo quantification of lead in bone with a portable XRF system – methodology and feasibility. Physics in Medicine and Biology 56(3):N39-51, 2011.

Weisskopf MG, Weuve J, Nie H, Saint-Hilaire MH, Sudarsky L, Simon DK, Hersh B, Schwartz J, Wright RO, Hu H. Association of cumulative lead exposure with Parkinson’s Disease. Environ Health Perspect. 118(11): 1609–1613, 2010.

Bouchard M, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary organophosphate metabolites in U.S. children 8 to 15 years. Pediatrics 125(6):e1270-77, 2010.

Weisskopf MG, Knekt P, O’Reilly EJ, Lyytinen J, Reunanen A, Laden F, Altshul L, Ascherio A. Prospective study of serum organochlorine pesticides and Parkinson disease risk. Neurology 74(13):1055-61, 2010.

Bouchard M, Bellinger DC, Weuve J, Mathews-Bellinger J, Gilman SE, Wright RO, Schwartz J, Weisskopf MG. Blood lead levels and major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder in U.S. young adults. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 66(12):1313-19, 2009.

Dikmen SS, Corrigan JD, Levin HS, Machamer J, Stiers W, Weisskopf MG. Cognitive outcome following traumatic injury. J. Head Trauma Rehabil. 24(6):430-438, 2009.

Weisskopf MG, Jain N, Nie H, Sparrow D, Vokonas P, Schwartz J, Hu H. A prospective study of bone lead concentration and death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer in the VA Normative Aging Study. Circulation 120(12):1056-64, 2009.

Weisskopf MG, Morozova N, O’Reilly E, McCullough ML, Calle EE, Thun MJ, Ascherio A. Prospective study of chemical exposures and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry 80(5):558-61, 2009.

Weisskopf MG, Ascherio A. Cigarettes and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Only smoke or also fire? Ann. Neurol. 65(4):361-362, 2009.

Weisskopf MG, O’Reilly E, Chen H, Schwarzschild MA, Ascherio A. Plasma urate and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Am. J. Epidemiol. 166(5):561-567, 2007.

Weisskopf MG, Hu H, Sparrow D, Lenkinski RE, WrightRO. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic evidence of glial effects of cumulative lead exposure in the adult human hippocampus. Environ. Health. Perspect. 115(4):519-523, 2007.

Weisskopf MG, Myers GJ. Cumulative effect of lead on cognition: Is bone more revealing than blood? Neurology 67(9):1536-7, 2006.

Weisskopf MG, O’Reilly EJ, McCullough, ML, Calle EE, Thun MJ, Cudkowicz M, Ascherio A. Prospective study of military service and mortality from Amyotrophic Llateral Sclerosis. Neurology 64(1):32-7, 2005.

Weisskopf MG, Wright RO, Schwartz J, Spiro III A, Sparrow D, Aro A, Hu H. Cumulative lead exposure and prospective change in cognition among elderly men: the VA Normative Aging Study. Am. J. Epidemiol. 160(12):1184-93, 2004.

Weisskopf MG, Hu H, Mulkern RV, White R, Aro A, Oliveira S, Wright RO. Cognitive deficits and magnetic resonance spectroscopy in adult monozygotic twins with lead poisoning. Environ. Health. Perspect. 112(5):620-625, 2004.

Weisskopf MG , Chen H, Schwarzschild MA, Kawachi I, Ascherio A. Prospective study of phobic anxiety and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Mov. Disord. 18(6):646-51, 2003 .

Weisskopf MG , Hanrahan LP, Anderson HA, for the Great Lakes Consortium. Decreased sex ratio following maternal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls from contaminated Great Lakes sport-caught fish: a retrospective cohort study. Environ. Health. 2:2, 2003.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Public health dispatch: Potential risk of lead exposure in dental offices. Morb Mort. Wkly Rep. 50(40):873-874, 2001.

Weisskopf MG, Bauer EP, LeDoux JE. L-type voltage-gated calcium channels mediate NMDA-independent associative long-term potentiation at thalamic input synapses to the amygdala; J. Neurosci. 19:10512-10519, 1999.

Weisskopf MG, Nicoll RA. Presynaptic changes during mossy fibre LTP revealed by NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses. Nature 376:256-259, 1995.

Weisskopf MG, Castillo PE, Zalutsky RA, Nicoll RA. Mediation of hippocampal mossy fiber long-term potentiation by cyclic AMP. Science 265:1878-1882, 1994.

Weisskopf MG, Zalutsky RA, Nicoll RA. The opioid peptide dynorphin mediates heterosynaptic depression of hippocampal mossy fibre synapses and modulates long-term potentiation. Nature 362:423-427, 1993.

Courses Taught

ID 215, Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
EPI 284, Epidemiology of Neurologic Diseases
HCM705, A Case-Based Introduction to Environmental Health and Epidemiology