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Shedding Light in the Darkness

Cell Phones, Radiation & Teenage Brains

cell060908Smartphone radiation could be destroying the memory performance of a new generation of adolescents, a new Swiss study has warned. Cumulative exposure to mobile devices over the course of a year negatively affects the figural memory of adolescents, scientists found.

Figural memory is mainly located in the right hemisphere of the brain and refers to our ability to make sense of objects including images, patterns and shapes.

Those who hold their phone next to their right ear are the most affected by exposure to radiation. Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending text messages, playing games or browsing the Internet cause only marginal RF-EMF exposure to the brain and were not associated with the development of memory performance.

Researchers from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) studied nearly 700 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 from urban and rural areas of German speaking Switzerland over one year.

They looked at the link between their daily exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) and their memory performance. The effects of RF-EMF were more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head, the study revealed.

‘This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations’, said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.

‘Changes in figural memory score were negatively correlated with cordless phone calls and, in tendency, with the duration of mobile phone calls and the cumulative RF-EMF brain dose’, researchers found.

Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending text messages, playing games or browsing the Internet cause only marginal RF-EMF exposure to the brain and were not associated with the development of memory performance.

Dr Röösli emphasized that further research is needed to rule out the influence of other factors. ‘The study results could have been affected by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participant’s cognitive and behavioral state.’

The potential effect of RF-EMF exposure to the brain is a relatively new field of scientific inquiry, according to the paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

‘It is not yet clear how RF-EMF could potentially affect brain processes or how relevant our findings are in the long-term’, said Dr Röösli.

‘Potential risks to the brain can be minimized by using headphones or the loud speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power.’

The research will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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