Cell phones speed up brain activity, especially in regions of the brain near the phone's antenna during a long phone call, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health. The meaning and potential health impacts of these changes are unknown, but they show conclusively that cell phone radiation is capable of altering brain activity.
Researchers took brain scans of 47 participants to directly measure how cell phones' electromagnetic radiation affected their brain activity. That's a departure from other studies in the cell phone radiation literature, which have largely consisted of observational studies, and which have been somewhat inconclusive due to biases and errors.
Each participant had a cell phone strapped to both ears and then underwent two 50-minute PET (positron emission tomography) scans, which measure brain activity by monitoring metabolism. In one scan, both cell phones were turned off; in the second, the right cell phone was turned on and played a recorded message, but with the sound muted so there would be no auditory interference.
The PET scans showed a 7 percent increase in activity in the part of the brain closest to the antenna, according to the study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Importantly, the researchers said the increased activity was unlikely to be associated with heat from the phone, because it happened near the antenna instead of where the phone touched the head.
The new study is mum on the meaning of these findings, however — it could be good or bad, as lead author Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the New York Times.
Previous studies have largely dismissed any ill effects from cell phone radiation, partly because the type of radiation emitted is pretty weak. Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation, which is weaker than the type of radiation you're exposed to while walking through an airport security scanner, for instance. Non-ionizing radiation does not break chemical bonds or interfere with DNA in the way that ionizing radiation does. As PopSci reported last year, the only universally recognized effect of non-ionizing radiation is minor heating of nearby tissue. The Federal Communications Commission sets limits for cell phone radiation below which that heating does not occur.
This study shows that there are other physiological effects beyond tissue warming, however. Researchers not involved in the work told the Times that the study even suggests different pathways for cancer and other health problems to develop, including the formation of free radicals and tissue swelling.
On the other hand, some studies suggest electromagnetic radiation could be good for you. In one study from 2010, University of South Florida researchers were surprised to find electromagnetic radiation from cell phones actually boosted the memories of young mice, and even reversed Alzheimer's symptoms in old mice. And Volkow said future research may show electromagnetic waves could be used for other therapeutic purposes.
The bottom line is that this study shows non-ionizing radiation from cell phones indeed has an effect on human brain function. Further studies will help explain just what effects mean for our health.
[via New York Times]
47 is not a "large study." Typical Popsci sensationalism.
Just another reason to ban cell phones
@caradoc01: the ill effects of the cellphone radiation are not proven to happen at all, simply that there is a possibility (there's a possibility that you could die of a stroke while eating healthy) there are also some good effects as well, so saying that their bad and need to be banned is a pretty rash decision.
this is an interesting study.
Small forces in nature can have large cumulative and controlling effects. Probably the best example is the building up of a hurricane. The effects of interaction between all pervading RF-EMF and biological systems is bound to be an emerging area of research in the near future. While positive and negative effects are possible, negative could be more probable from the point of view that we are disturbing a system which existed for millions of years. After long term debates, it is highly probable that we might go back to land lines in combination with limited radio communication in such a way as to retain the facilities of cell phones, and at the same time minimize the ill effects of RF-EMF. We do this quite often. We did in the case of DDT, asbestos, lead, mercury, and many many instances. We always found better substitutes through innovation, of course, at the expense of innocent susceptible victims. Let us be more cautious in using cell phones, till such a time when an inventor/researcher come up with hoods and homes to prevent the EMF.
It's worse than sensationalism cmichaelpetrie, it's wrong. The study found an increase in glucose metabolism of the cells, not in brain activity as this article implies. Every minute of every day human cells are metabolizing glucose, it's not unusual or extraordinary, and it's not brain activity (it is cellular activity, but it is not brain activity).
Brain activity is the firing of neurons in the brain, ie the electrical pulses that allow us to think, breath, talk, cry, etc. This study wasn't even designed to measure electrical current within the brain, just glucose metabolism rates. JAMA provides a pretty complete synopsis of the article.
Metabolizing glucose is how they measure brain activity.
You drink some radioactive glucose solution, then they scan your brain. Areas where your brain is burning the glucose show a higher concentration of the radiation, making it possible for doctors to determine what part of your brain is active.
So, glucose metabolism rates are basically "brain activity" rates.