Although the CNS is protected from a number of xeno-biotics by the blood-brain barrier, the barrier is not effective against lipophilic compounds, such as solvents or insecticides (Fig. 7.1). Similarly, the peripheral nervous system is protected by a blood-neural barrier. The barriers are less well developed in the immature nervous system, rendering the fetus and neonate even more susceptible to neurotoxicants. Neural tissue susceptibility is due in large part to its high metabolic rate, high lipid content, and for the CNS, high rate of blood flow.

Since damaged neural tissue cannot easily replicate, glial and other nonconducting cells may proliferate and occupy the space of the dead neurons, and the damage may be expressed as deficits of sensory and motor functions and behavior. Alternatively, other neurons may take on the functions of the damaged neurons such that there is little or no perceptible damage.

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