How Scientists Studied Cell Phones & the Brain

While some states in the United States contemplate requiring labels on cell phones to warn of possible health dangers, scientists in Florida believe mobile phone use might actually promote brain health.

Cell Phones Brain

Two experiments were conducted. In both, they simulated cell phone use with an electromagnet force (EMF) radio transmitter under the mice’s cages. The transmitter sent radio waves at a frequency cell phones use (918 MHz) and at the same energy (250 mW/Kg) that human users receive from their phones. They simulated two one hour conversations every day.

Adolescent Mice Improved Brain Function

After about six months of twice daily hour-long simulated cell phone exposures, they tested young adult mice and compared results to control mice.

One of the tests they used was the radial arm water maze. In this test, mice are put on a platform in a tank of water that is partitioned into pie slices, with a circular cut-out in the center like the center of a target. One of the pie slices has an escape route. The test is how long it takes a mouse to find the escape. Another test used the radial arm water maze with physical cues (clues) to lead to the escape route. They also tested the mice's physical agility with challenges such as walking on a balance beam, and performing a task similar to tight wire walking. The investigators felt these mouse tests corresponded to tests used to evaluate people with possible Alzheimer's dementia.

At about six months, control mice (who didn’t participate in the simulated cell phone experience) deteriorated some in their performance, while one strain of exposed mice maintained or actually improved performance. The mouse strain that benefited was a transgenic strain destined to get an Alzheimer’s-like disease.

Adult Mice Benefited From EMF Exposure

Adult mice, five months old, were begun on the daily cell phone simulation experience protocol. Two months later, they were tested. After eight months of exposure, the 13 month old mice were tested. The transgenic mice who did not receive EMF deteriorated in performance, while the exposed transgenic mice “were strikingly better.”

The mice were sacrificed. The non-exposed transgenic mice had amyloid deposits in their brains. Amyloid is felt to be a major cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia. The exposed mice had “substantially lower (amyloid) burdens in both hippocampus (↓35%) and entorhinal cortex (↓32%),” two areas known to be where Alzheimer’s originates.

How EMF Might Be Helpful

The exposed mice also were slightly warmer. This may have been due to increased blood circulation. The effect was only seen after long term EMF exposure, suggesting possibly some blood vessel structural changes.

The investigators also suggest the beneficial effect might instead be from increased brain cell activity. Some studies using PET images found increased brain cell activity with short term cell phone use.

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