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: Chile's Bachelet sends abortion bill to Congress

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Economist outlines work on managing tasks and time

Dec 17, 2014

"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight," said Samuel Johnson, "it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Most of us, spared such an imperative, carry on in a less-concentrated state, but it holds ...

Taking great ideas from the lab to the fab

Jul 31, 2014

A "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs—the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science ...

From the smartphone to the Cloud and back again

May 16, 2014

Mike Panciera had already helped a blind man navigate the perilous fantasy worlds of video games. It made sense that the next step would be to design a mobile app to help the blind find their way through ...

Recommended for you

Ebola: timeline of a ruthless killer

4 hours ago

Here are key dates in the current Ebola epidemic, the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever which first surfaced in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Chile's Bachelet sends abortion bill to Congress

4 hours ago

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet on Saturday pressed ahead with plans to decriminalize abortion in certain cases, a decades-old taboo in one of Latin America's most socially conservative countries.

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

Jan 31, 2015

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.