It has been a source of near constant fear for the paranoid that these new-fangled mobile phones things may be silently frying our brains while we jabber away.
The many studies into whether your handset might instantly cause a deadly growth inside your cranium seem to neatly fall into piles marked ‘certainly’, ‘definitely not’ and ‘we haven’t got the foggiest’.
Yet another study is, of course, met with a certain amount of trepidation. Will this finally be the confirmation that we have been zapping our brains with invisible bad stuff since we bought that Nokia 3210 back in secondary school? Or can we breathe another sigh of relief for now?
Researchers at the National Institue of Health, recently sought to find out more, in a report published in JAMA, looking at the effect of a fifty minute period of cell phone use in order to find out any potential effects of radiofrequency-modulated electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs).
“The dramatic worldwide increase in use of cellular telephones has prompted concerns regarding potential harmful effects of exposure to RF-EMFs,” the researchers said.
“Of particular concern has been the potential carcinogenic effects from the RF-EMF emissions of cell phones.”
“However, epidemiologic studies of the association between cell phone use and prevalence of brain tumours have been inconsistent (some, but not all, studies showed increased risk), and the issue remains unresolved.”
In an experiment lead by Dr Nora D. Volkow, a team aimed to find out whether exposure to RF-EMFs had any negative effects.
After mobile phones were placed on each ear of subjects, once with one activated and a separate without either turned on, it was found that brain activity was stimulated when a phone was used.
The researchers found that while the whole of the brain was not affected, certain regions showed increased brain glucose metabolism.
It was found that metabolism in the brain region closest to the antenna (orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole) was significantly higher (approximately 7 percent) when the phone was on than for phone-off conditions.
“The increases were significantly correlated with the estimated electromagnetic field amplitudes both for absolute metabolism and normalized metabolism,” the authors write.
“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.”
Alas, the researchers are unable to tell whether this actually means anything as the mechanisms by which the RF-EMFs could affect brain glucose metabolism are unclear.
So, are we any closer to finding out whether we have been voluntarily microwaving our brains for the past decade or so?
Despite discovering that, yes, mobiles do something to our brains, we are still not sure what it is. The conclusion is typically disappointing: “These results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cell phone use”.