Radio waves from cell phones excite brain cells: NPR

0

A new study finds that radio waves from a cell phone can affect brain cell metabolism, although there is no evidence the effect is harmful. Here, a pedestrian talks on the phone on a street in San Francisco.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


A new study finds that radio waves from a cell phone can affect brain cell metabolism, although there is no evidence the effect is harmful. Here, a pedestrian talks on the phone on a street in San Francisco.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Radio waves from a cellphone can affect a person’s brain metabolism, study finds Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the effect has nothing to do with cancer, and the researchers say there’s no evidence the increased metabolism is harmful. The human brain relies on electrical signals to communicate, so it makes sense that electromagnetic energy emitted from a cellphone could affect brain cells, the researchers say.

Nora Volkow, brain researcher and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, says she was intrigued by the possibility — for personal and professional reasons.

“I see a lot of my relatives and friends spending hours on their cellphones,” she says. “And the question in my brain is, ‘Could that have an effect? “

Volkow knew that some MRI scanners produce electric and magnetic fields strong enough to cause brain cells to consume more energy, in the form of glucose.

“Glucose metabolism increases when you activate your brain, when you think, when you talk,” she says, “because you need the energy source for cells to function.”

Volkow wanted to know if electromagnetic fields produced by cell phones were strong enough to affect glucose metabolism in brain cells in the same way as a CT scan. She and a team of researchers therefore studied 47 people.

The team used two cell phones for each participant – one on the right ear, one on the left. The scientists muted the phones to make sure it wasn’t the sound of someone talking that was affecting parts of the brain. Participants couldn’t even tell if cell phones were on.

Next, the researchers turned the phone to one side and used a PET scanner to measure how much glucose the brain cells consumed. Volkow says a 50-minute call clearly boosted brain metabolism.

“There was an increase overall, about 6-8%,” she says. “But only on areas of the brain close to the antenna.”

Volkow says the level of increase in brain metabolism isn’t terribly dramatic — studies have shown that simply opening your eyes can produce a much greater change in the brain cells that process visual information. And scientists say it’s hard to know what to do with the change.

No clear message

“Based on this finding, I can’t say, ‘Is it bad that you increase glucose metabolism? Or ‘could it be good?’ ‘ said Volkow.

Other researchers agree that there is no clear message of the result.

“Many questions are now being raised by this very, very important study,” says Lennart Hardell, a cancer researcher at Orebro University Hospital, Sweden, and co-author of an editorial accompanying the study. “What about long-term use, and what about children and adolescents?”

Hardell, who has previously suggested a link between cellphone use and brain cancer, says the finding doesn’t necessarily strengthen his case because there’s no direct link between increased brain metabolism and brain cancer. the cancer. But he says it’s still possible researchers will find an indirect one, perhaps involving hormonal changes or the production of molecules known as free radicals in the brain.

Such a link is unlikely, says Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale, because almost everything that happens to us affects cellular metabolism.

“If you walk into a warmer room, your metabolism will increase,” Novella says. He notes that the authors of the new study wondered if the increased brain metabolism could be from the heat generated by a cellphone, although they concluded it was unlikely.

Several large international studies have found no link between cancer and cellphone use, Novella says, nor have the studies found other health risks from electromagnetic radiation from cellphones.

So if there is any risk from cellphones, Novella says, it must be very low. But he says it’s important to continue researching the health effects of a technology used by so many people, and there still isn’t much research on children and cellphones, he says.

So parents may want to limit their children’s cell phone use, Novella says, adding that people who just want to be on the safe side can use a landline when possible, buy a headset for their phone, or just use the feature. loud speaker.

These steps are very effective, he says, because exposure to EMF radiation drops dramatically if you hold a phone “away from your head rather than against your ear.”

Share.

Comments are closed.