Manganese (Mn) is an essential trace metal found in all tissues, and it is required for normal amino acid, lipid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. While Mn deficiency is extremely rare in humans, toxicity due to overexposure of Mn is more prevalent. The brain appears to be especially vulnerable. Mn neurotoxicity is most commonly associated with occupational exposure to aerosols or dusts that contain extremely high levels (> 1–5 mg Mn/m3) of Mn, consumption of contaminated well water, or parenteral nutrition therapy in patients with liver disease or immature hepatic functioning such as the neonate.
This review will focus primarily on the neurotoxicity of Mn in the neonate. We will discuss putative transporters of the metal in the neonatal brain and then focus on the implications of high Mn exposure to the neonate focusing on typical exposure modes (e.g., dietary and parenteral). Although Mn exposure via parenteral nutrition is uncommon in adults, in premature infants, it is more prevalent, so this mode of exposure becomes salient in this population. We will briefly review some of the mechanisms of Mn neurotoxicity and conclude with a discussion of ripe areas for research in this underreported area of neurotoxicity.