Study finds mobiles excite brain cells

Jun 27, 2006
A mobile phone

We know cell phones affect the brain. But the question of whether the electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile handsets that excite brain cells actually do any harm remains unanswered, however, by researchers in Italy.

According to the study led by Paolo Rossini of the Fatebenefratelli hospital in Milan published in the Annals of Neurology this week, prolonged exposure to electronic waves emitted by cell phones causes brain cells to become active. The study, entitled "mobile phone emissions and human brain excitability," exposed 15 young male volunteers to electromagnetic field signals from a GSM 900 cell phone for 45 minutes. Researchers then measured motions in the brain cortex by using transcranial magnetic stimulation to check on the brain before and immediately after exposure, as well as one hour after the exposure. The cortex is the outside layer of the brain.

In 12 of the 15 volunteers, there was an excitability change in the motor cortex that found itself next to the phone. But while the authors stated that "intracortical excitability was significantly modified, short intracortical inhibition was reduced and facilitation enhanced" -- they pointed out that the effects of the exposure on the brain were transient. Indeed, one hour after the exposure, all subjects found their brains return to baseline conditions.

As such, the Rossini study does not conclude whether cell-phone use is actually bad for the brain.

"It should be argued that long-lasting and repeated exposure to EMFs linked with intense use of cellular phones in daily life might be harmful or beneficial in brain-diseased subjects," the study said, adding that "further studies are needed to better circumstantiate these conditions and to provide safe rules for the use of this increasingly more widespread device."

Still, whatever the longer-term consequences of cell-phone use, the study's findings should be food for thought for the estimated 2 billion people in the world who use cell phones. Moreover, there is concern that people who have a propensity to brain-cell excitability, such as those with epilepsy, could be more vulnerable to prolonged use of mobile phones than others.

Of course, the latest study is only one of the many that have examined the subject of brain health and use of mobile phones. Earlier this year the Dutch government backed up a study that found that there was no harm in radiation emitted from handsets, while Japanese telecom operators released a report that found no evidence of cells or DNA being adversely affected by the microwave communication used by cell phones. Other studies, however, such as one released by a group of Swedish scientists, have found that prolonged use of mobile phones could increase the possibility of developing brain tumors.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Expect changes in appetite, taste of food after weight loss surgery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Choosing a Low Radiation Cell Phone

Sep 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- An Environmental Working Group (EWG) team has released a consumer guide on the radiation levels emitted by over 1,000 cell phones sold in the U.S. The guide is the most comprehensive ever ...

Exploring the inner workings of materials

Nov 02, 2011

Growing up in an “idyllic” area of farms and orchards in southern New Jersey, Krystyn Van Vliet had little exposure to science or technology. And yet, it was that very environment that she credits with kindling ...

Recommended for you

Beating the clock for ischemic stroke sufferers

11 minutes ago

A ground-breaking computer technology raises hope for people struck by ischemic stroke, which is a very common kind of stroke accounting for over 80 per cent of overall stroke cases. Developed by research experts at The Hong ...

Some immune cells defend only one organ

17 minutes ago

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists have uncovered a new way the immune system may fight cancers and viral infections. The finding could aid efforts to use immune cells to treat illness.

Naps help infants learn

21 minutes ago

Sleep is essential in helping young children apply what they learn, according to new research by Rebecca Gómez, associate professor in the UA Department of Psychology. In this Q&A, she talks about her new ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Firm targets 3D printing synthetic tissues, organs

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Oxford spin-out, OxSyBio, will develop 3D printing techniques to produce tissue-like synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. In the longer term the company ...

Survival hope for melanoma patients thanks to new vaccine

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that a new trial vaccine offers the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability ...

Naps help infants learn

Sleep is essential in helping young children apply what they learn, according to new research by Rebecca Gómez, associate professor in the UA Department of Psychology. In this Q&A, she talks about her new ...

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...