High-dose cell phone radiation interferes with learning processes

UMTS effect produces changes in the brain's ion budget

Mobile phone on the ear © SXC
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Strong cell phone radiation can interfere with learning processes in the brain - but only in rats. For the first time, neuroscientists have demonstrated that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields trigger changes in the brain's ion budget that disrupt neuronal learning and synaptic memory formation. However, there is no danger for mobile phone users: during normal phone calls, such strong fields are not reached. However, things are different for security services and the military, where researchers recommend regular reviews.

The question of whether mobile phone radiation is harmful or not remains debatable. Mobile phones with UMTS technology produce radiation of 2, 100 MHz and relatively weak field strengths (3.8 - 4.8 V / m). Studies show that such fields can trigger a local, weak warming in the tissue. Conflicting statements, however, exist on the non-thermal effects of mobile phone fields. These include, for example, a greater permeability of the cell walls, which can lead to changes in the ion channel insertion and metabolic processes, even if no temperature change is measurable. This could result in impaired learning processes in the brain.

Stress or radiation?

Among other things, the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on cognitive performance and behavior have been discussed since the 1950s. However, previous experiments could only adequately clarify whether the observed changes are the effects of non-thermal effects or the effects of stress, for example, by converting experimental animals into an unfamiliar environment.

To clarify this question, neuroscientists of the Ruhr University Bochum conducted a new study together with physicists of the University of Wuppertal. For this purpose, the researchers exposed rats to different high-power non-thermal high-frequency fields in the UMTS frequency range for two hours each. The field strengths were selected by the researchers adapted to the brain mass of the rats according to the standards that apply to humans. The specific absorption rates were 0, 2 and 10 watts per kilogram (W / kg).

During exposure, researchers electrophysiologically analyzed the effects on neuronal learning and synaptic memory formation. In addition, they examined all animals immediately after exposure to the release of stress hormones. For comparison, control animals were used, which did not have to leave their cage. display

The computer model served as the basis for calculating the brain-focused, electromagnetic field exposure without local tissue warming. Red indicates the area of ​​targeted field exposure. RUB

The radiation also impairs learning processes

The evaluation shows for the first time that some of the stress recorded in earlier examinations can not be attributed to radiation but to the experimental process. Despite training and informal familiarization of the animals with the system, the experiment as such triggered already measurable stress, which also significantly influenced synaptic learning and memory formation in the brain of the rat. But: Strong electromagnetic fields (SAR 10 W / kg) also significantly influenced learning and memory in addition to the already generated stress. In contrast, weak electromagnetic fields (SAR 0 and 2 W / kg) did not cause any measurable impairment.

Normal cell phone fields too weak to trigger effect

"These results can not easily be transferred to humans, " explains Nora Prochnow. But they show on the animal model that electromagnetic fields in principle can impair learning processes in the brain. Nevertheless, you do not have to worry about anything: people are not exposed to enough strong fields when they are telephoning. The situation is different in special occupational situations, such as the use of body-associated antennas, such as those used in security services and for military purposes. The higher exposure limit values ​​defined for workers are reached more quickly and must be controlled. (PLoS ONE, 2011; doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0019437)

(Ruhr-University Bochum, 21.06.2011 - NPO)