Last Updated on October 19, 2020
Preliminary research has shown that just 50 minutes of cell phone use is linked to an increase in brain activity in the area closest to the phone’s antenna according to a report.
The dramatic increase in cell phone use all over the world has sparked concern in medical circles, particularly with regards to the potential for harmful effects associated with an increase in exposure to Radio Frequency (RF) cell phone radiation and the potential for carcinogenic effects.
Studies that have been conducted on humans to determine the health effects of cell phone radiation exposure have produced variable results – with some, but not all, of the studies showing an increased risk, highlighting why there is a need for researchers to determine whether radiation from cell phones can affect brain functioning in humans.
Cell Phone Radiation Brain Activity Study
A team of researchers led by Dr. Nora D. Volkow undertook a random study of 47 participants to determine whether exposure to cell phone radiation had an effect on regional activity occurring within the brains of humans.
Cell phones were positioned on both the left and right ear while an image of the brain was captured using a PET brain scan together with an injection of 18F (fluorodeoxyglucose) to measure glucose metabolism in the brain. This was performed twice: firstly, with the cell phone on the right ear turned on for 50 minutes with the sound muted (‘on’ state); and secondly, with both mobile devices turned off (‘off’ state).
After analyzing the data to determine the association between brain metabolism and the estimated levels of RF radiation emissions produced by the handsets, the researchers compared the PET brain scans to determine the effect that cell phone use had on glucose metabolism in the brain.
While there was no difference in whole-brain metabolism when the phones were turned on or off, the researchers did find that there were significant differences in metabolism within regional areas of the brain.
Metabolism was approximately 7% higher in the region of the brain that was closest to the cell phone’s antenna when devices were turned on compared to when devices where turned off, which the authors considered significant.
According to the authors: “The increases were significantly correlated with the estimated electromagnetic field amplitudes both for absolute metabolism and normalized metabolism. This indicates that the regions expected to have the greater absorption of RF-EMFs from the cell phone exposure were the ones that showed the larger increases in glucose metabolism.”
These results of this study show that human brains are sensitive to cell phone radiation exposure from acute cell phone use, however, the mechanisms by which RF radiation could affect brain glucose metabolism are unclear.
There is growing concern that cell phone radiation may cause brain cancer. The results from this study show that acute exposure to cell phones has an effect on metabolic activity in the human brain.
However, the authors note that “these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cell phone use.”
More Studies are Needed
The researchers conclude that further research is needed to determine whether these effects of cell phone radiation could potentially be harmful to humans over the long-term.
In an accompanying editorial article related to this paper, Henry Lai and Lennart Hardell note that the increased brain activity observed in this study may just be the tip of the iceberg.
They say, it could be indicative of “other alterations in brain function from radiofrequency emissions, such as neurotransmitter and neurochemical activities. If so, this might have effects on other organs, leading to unwanted physiological responses. Further studies on biomarkers of functional brain changes from exposure to radiofrequency radiation are definitely warranted.”