Are Cell Phones Affecting Your Brain?

Karen Barrow
It's always by your side, and when it's not, you are chatting away with it by your ear. Cell phones have made keeping in touch much easier, but what are they doing to your health?

A new study by Italian researchers finds that the electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones may not be as innocuous as they seem, but they may not be all that harmful, either. Ultimately, it seems, cells phones do change your brain's activity, but whether this helps or harms is still not understood.

For the study, researchers fitted 15 men between the ages of 20 and 36 with a specialized helmet that contained a cell phone near the left ear. While wearing the helmets, the cell phone was turned on for a period of 45 minutes without the knowledge of the participants. The helmet measured the brain activity of the participants both while the phone was turned on and while it was off.

While the phones were on, there was increased brain activity in the cortical region of the left side of the brain, which is responsible for movement and language. This region of the brain remained in the excited state for as long as one hour after the phones were turned off.

It is common for cell phone users to use their phones for a similar length of time, certainly over the course of the day. But it is not known whether this increased brain activity would be beneficial or harmful to a person.

Electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by cell phones, have been used by doctors in the past to treat migraines and even depression. But there has also been some connection between electromagnetic fields and an increased number of seizures in people with epilepsy.

"Theoretically, it might be both dangerous in all those conditions in which cortical excitability is [already] enhanced, like in epilepsy, or it might be beneficial in all those conditions with a need for higher excitability, as in post-stroke recovery or Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Paolo M. Rossini, professor of neurology at the University Campus-Bio-Medico in Rome, Italy

If there is a risk to using cell phones, Rossini states that more research is needed to determine which people should limit their use and who should maybe avoid cell phones altogether.

"More research is needed in order to produce safety guidelines, particularly for 'at risk' populations like people with different kind of brain damage, children etc.," said Rossini

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