Cell Phones Affect Brain Metabolism

This week the Journal of the American Medical Association released a preliminary communication on Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism. The article details a study showing that a transmitting cell phone increased glucose metabolism in areas of the brain near the cell phone antenna. The first name on the list of researchers presenting the study, Nora D. Volkow, MD, is Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and has experience using brain imaging to study the impact of drugs on the brain.

The abstract reported that results of the study showed: "Whole-brain metabolism did not differ between on and off conditions. In contrast, metabolism in the region closest to the antenna (orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole) was significantly higher for on than off conditions. The increases were significantly correlated with the estimated electromagnetic field amplitudes both for absolute metabolism …and normalized metabolism…." The conclusion was that "In healthy participants and compared with no exposure, 50-minute cell phone exposure was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism in the region closest to the antenna."

The conclusion also stated that its findings were of "unknown clinical significance." The study would appear to indicate that even the low RF power in cell phones is sufficient to cause measurable changes in brain chemistry when the phone is held close to the head. What the study does not show is whether this increase in metabolism is harmful. Could it actually help the brain function better?

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.