Mobile phone derived electromagnetic fields can disturb learning

June 30, 2011, Ruhr-University Bochum

High frequency non-ionizing radiation, emitted by mobile phones, is redundantly matter of discussions. The effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields derived from mobile phones have been discussed since the 1950s. Neuroscientists from Germany were now able to elucidate this question. For the first time, they provide proof that extremely high-powered electromagnetic fields indeed influence learning processes on the synaptic level within the brain, independent from other factors like stress.

High frequency non-ionizing radiation, emitted by mobile phones, is redundantly matter of discussions. The effects of (HEFs) derived from mobile phones have been discussed since the 1950's. from Bochum were now able to elucidate this question. For the first time, they provide proof that extremely high-powered electromagnetic fields (EMFs) indeed influence learning processes on the synaptic level within the brain, independent from other factors like stress. "For this effect, very high values are necessary. These do not occur during the daily use of mobile phones", explains Dr. Nora Prochnow (Medical Faculty of the RUB).

HEFs are not only used in mobile phones, but also in a variety of other like radio, television or cordless telephone sets. Mobile phones of the so called third generation utilize the UMTS technology (Universal Mobile Communication System) with a frequency of 1200 MHz and a relatively weak operating range (3.8-4.8 V/m). With increasing power, EMFs are able to elicit local warming of body tissues, being also described as a "thermal effect". Reportedly, mobile phones can cause local warming of the brain by less than 0.1 C. The effect on function and structure of the brain during long term use of mobile phones (e.g. > 30 min) remains unexplained until now.

Furthermore, statements regarding the non-thermal effects of emitted EMFs are unclear and contradictive. These comprise for instance an increase in permeability and fluidity of cellular membranes, which can be implicated in changes in ion-channel integration and metabolism, even without a detectable change in temperature. This may impair synaptic learning processes in the brain. Until now, experiments could only insufficiently enlighten, whether these effects are derived from non-thermal HEFs or from stress, like it can be induced by handling of the experimental animal (e.g. placing a rat into an unknown environment).

To investigate this question, a new study was performed by scientists of the Department of Neuroanatomy and Molecular Brain Research (Professor Dr. med. Rolf Dermietzel) in cooperation with the Chair of Electromagnetic Theory of the University of Wuppertal. For the experiment, rats were placed into differently powered non-thermal HEFs in the UMTS operating range. Synaptic learning and memory formation were analysed by electrophysiological methods. Furthermore, all animals were tested for stress hormone release immediately following the HEF exposure.

The results: Although there was daily training and effortless contact to the exposure environment, increases in blood derived stress hormone levels could be detected for all exposed groups. The stress clearly influences learning and memory formation on the synaptic level in the rat brain. High powered EMFs (SAR 10 W/kg) also have a significant effect on learning and memory formation. In contrast to this, weak EMFs (SAR 0 and 2 W/kg) lead to no detectable changes or impairments. "These results cannot directly be transferred to humans", says Nora Prochnow. "But in the animal model, it can be demonstrated that neuronal mechanisms of synaptic can serve as a target for high powered EMFs". However, there is no need for serious concerns: humans are not exposed to this type of high powered EMFs during daily mobile phone use. Nevertheless, the matter has to be regarded differently in special occupational situations, for instance during the use of body worn antenna systems as it is common for security services or military purposes. Here, critical levels for occupational exposure may be reached more easily and have to be controlled carefully.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

January 23, 2018
Simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too, says a new study by Duke University neuroscientists.

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ionian
not rated yet Jun 30, 2011
This article seems to be written by an automatic machine translator and only slightly edited by someone who learned english as a second language.

A tough read.

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.