News / Health

Cell Phones Cause Increased Brain Activity

Study results renew calls for more research into the potential dangers of cell phones

New evidence finds cell phones stimulate the brain but the study does not prove they actually damage the brain.
New evidence finds cell phones stimulate the brain but the study does not prove they actually damage the brain.

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

A new study finds that an hour-long cell phone call causes a spike in biochemical activity in the user's brain.  The researchers can't say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but the finding has renewed the debate over cell phone safety and raised calls for more health studies.  

Cell phones are everywhere. Decades of research into whether cell phone radiation might cause brain tumors or impotence have been inconclusive. The wireless companies insist the phones are safe. The new study from the National Institutes of Health doesn't settle the debate, but offers some new food for thought.

In the study, 47 healthy people were tested over a one-year period. Participants had cell phones placed on their left and right ears. One cell phone was activated but muted for 50 minutes, the other was off. After that, the subjects were tested with both cell phones turned off.

With the phones at their ears, the subjects' brains were scanned using a sophisticated imaging technique. Dr. Nora Volkow, who conducted the study along with colleagues at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says the brain scans showed heightened metabolic activity in brain cells closest to the activated devices.

"This right area of the brain that was very close to the antenna shows the largest increase in metabolism as compared when the telephones were off," says Volkow. "Even though the radio frequencies that are emitted from current cell phone technologies are very weak, they are able to activate the human brain to have an effect.''

The effect was a seven percent increase in the rate at which brain cells closest to an active cell phone antenna metabolized sugar into energy - an essential and normal activity.  Dr. Giuseppe Esposito, an expert on nuclear medicine, says the study demonstrates clearly that mobile phone signals can excite brain cells.  But it doesn't answer that nagging question.

"The study does not bring any evidence to the fact that cell phones cause damage to the brain," says Esposito. "It just tells us that cell phones cause stimulation to the brain."

Many studies have explored potential links between cell phone use and brain cancer.  Skeptics wonder if such harmful effects might only turn up after five, 10 or even 15 years.

Esposito believes the best scientific studies have yet to be done. "We need what are called epidemiological studies where you will follow a population using cell phones - high users or light users - and then see what happens over the years."

Experts hope the NIH study renews interest in the question of cellphone safety.

"This is a study that is interesting and will almost certainly provoke additional studies," says Dr. Andrew Sloan of the Case Medical Center.

While we're waiting for those additional studies, experts say we can reduce potential health risks by using hands-free devices to operate our cell phones, not carrying them close to our bodies, and limiting the length of our calls.  

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs