This Is Your Brain on RF-EMF

in News
March 1st, 2011


Can you hear me now? For years, it has been popular doctrine that cell phone use is bad for our brains, but we glue our phones to our ears anyway. Cell phones emit radio frequency-modulated electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) that are questioned for their potential danger when the brain is exposed to them. The oscillatory frequencies of RF-EMFs correspond to those measured in neural tissue, and thus could interfere with neural activity. The amount of electromagnetic radiation given off by our communication devices is small, but is radiation all the same. Radiation exposure is dangerous for any kind of cell in our body, and can penetrate cells and damage DNA either by crashing into the molecule directly or causing damage indirectly by forming free radicals from water that can have cancer-causing effects.

radiation damage

Now, a study that empirically investigates the effects of cell phones on the brain with acute cell phone exposure with PET imaging from the National Institute on Drug Abuse has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study investigates if acute cell phone exposure affected activity in the brain by measuring glucose metabolism via PET in subjects with two cell phones affixed to their ears. Readings were obtained with one cell phone antenna activated for 50 minutes (the “on” condition) and with both off (the “off” condition) for control and comparison purposes. Subjects were exposed to either condition and imaging of their brains was analyzed, revealing that whole-brain effects were not significant, but there was significant activation in areas of the brain in the immediate vicinity of the cell phone, justifying our concerns with cell phone radiation. Brain mapping (below) shows the strength of the electric field provided by the affixed cell phone mapped against the brain itself. Magnitude was markedly increased near the antenna, increasing significantly closer to the phone and reaching maximum strength near the lower temporal lobe.

cell phone brain images

PET scans (below) of the control condition (cell phone off) versus the experimental condition (cell phone on) at the level of the orbitofrontal cortex. Clear increase in glucose metabolism was demonstrated in the right orbitofrontal cortex and the lower right superior frontal gyrus. These brain regions are associated with decision-making and sensory-aided self awareness, respectively. Additional statistical analysis showed that glucose metabolism is positively correlated with the strength of the electric field exposed to the brain. The researchers interpret the spikes in activity as increases in neuronal activation, providing scientific evidence that our cell phones are affecting our brains.

cell phone PET

Although no justified claims can be made between this study’s observed brain activity increase and brain cancer of other pathology, the results show that cell phones do have an observable effect on our brains. The authors suggest that further study is needed to elucidate the mechanism by which electric fields stimulate increased brain activity, and that the link between electric fields and neuronal excitation must be corroborated. The researchers are not sure of the implications of this observed increase in neural activation, positive or negative, but research must be continued in this area so we can learn how our technology is affecting our brains. The areas affected included those for decision making and sensory awareness, but it is unclear how activation of such areas can effect behavior or thought. Do cell phones make us impulsive? Do they make us hyper-sensitized or unaware of our other surroundings? What can you do? If this study has alarmed you, one of those headsets would work wonders – just be prepared to look like you’re talking to yourself on the street!

Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism – JAMA

egg phone


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