The effect of electromagnetic fields from digital mobile phones (DMP) on brain functioning is an area receiving increased attention. A study conducted by researchers at Swinburne’s Brain Sciences Institute (BSI) in Australia compared the performance of 120 volunteers on 8 neuropsychological tests during real and sham exposure to mobile phone emissions equivalent to a 30 minute phonecall.
Results showed that participants’ “simple” and “choice reaction times” showed strong evidence of impairment. However, performance on the “trail making task” improved, supporting the hypothesis that DMP radiofrequency emissions improve the speed of processing of information held in the brain’s working memory.
Lead researcher and Director of BSI, Professor Con Stough, said that while the study raises the possibility that short-term exposure of mobile phone emissions affects brain activity, the effect is small.
“The study showed evidence of slower response times for participants undertaking simple reactions and more complex reactions, such as choosing a response when there is more than one alternative,” Professor Stough said.
“This could equate to driving a car and being distracted by another car pulling out in front of you. The driver’s reaction time to chose between braking, turning or sounding the horn, could be affected, albeit slightly.
“The study also found that radiation from mobile phones seems to improve working memory, used for example when remembering a phone number long enough to dial it.”
But Professor Stough says this memory finding should be interpreted with caution because the underlying biological mechanism is not known. “We’re still a long way from having a complete picture, and this study is another small step towards giving people scientific based information about the effect of mobile phones on their health.
“Further investigations such as functional magnetic resonance imaging are needed to confirm the neuropsychological changes associated with mobile phone emissions,” he said.
The study was published in the April edition of the journal Neuropsycholgia.