Cell Phone Radiation Boosts Brain Activity -- And That's a Bad Thing?

mom cell phone baby

Baby's not so interested in cell phones...

I know with two kids and a full-time job and all the parenting extras like sports and school volunteer time, I could use all the brain activity boosting I can get. So now that we know talking on our cell phones excites our brains a little, should I just talk more on my cell phone for a little boost? Is it that easy? Because that would be sweet -- and fun!

Well, of course it's not ...

In fact, due to the new study that finds cell phones do affect the brain, many people are worrying once again about the dangers of cell phone use, in this case direct bodily contact with cell phones.


The new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association determines that extended use, about 50 minutes, of a cell phone -- and being in direct contact with its invisible electromagnetic radiation ooze -- can cause unusually high activity in the parts of the brain near the cell phone's antenna. Nearby brain tissue, in fact, was found to use 7 percent more energy.

Don't kill your cell phone just yet though. Lead researcher on the study, Nora Volkow of the National Institutes of Health, tells Wired:

We have no idea what this means yet or how it works. But this is the first reliable study showing the brain is activated by exposure to cell phone radio frequencies. I can't overall say this is harmful but we have to study more for long-term effects.

In slightly more complex, sorta scary, and science-y terms, Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., chair of the Environmental Health Trust's Board and a cancer biologist and physician, says:

This important finding should stimulate many biologists to perform in-depth studies to determine the consequences of such changes in nerve cells or other bodily cells in the region of the radiation. We need to develop a better understanding of how radio-frequency radiation might contribute to increased risk for brain tumors as well as other alterations in brain functions.

And if the dreadful idea that long-term cell phone use might add up to a big fat brain tumor right above your phone ear doesn't freak you out, there's more. Dr. Devra Lee Davis, president and founder of Environmental Health Trust, stressed:

Tumors are just the tip of the iceberg, but their development is preceded by years of other biological perturbations that have profound medical relevance -- and this study confirms that significant biological changes occur after relatively brief exposures ...

Can we kill our cell phones now?

Well, let's be honest. We're surely not giving up our cell phones anytime soon. Because we're totally addicted to them (or to all that extra brain excitement ...). It seems it's the cell phone makers' job to fund more extensive research here, but that'll be awhile. So where do we go from here?

The common sense approach, now that we know cell phones can have some kind of effect on our brains, would be to reduce our brain and body exposure to cell phone radiation as much as we can. Rely more on a hands-free headset or speaker phone, especially for long cell phone conversations -- or hey, teens have the right idea: text messaging!

Of course, today on Science Friday, Dr. Volkow suggested we actually use wired earphones. She wouldn't outright say anything against Bluetooth headsets or ear pieces -- but she made it perfectly clear that the jury is still out on whether Bluetooth devices have the same kind of excitable effect on the brain.

Is this news enough to keep your cell phone away from your body?


Image via miguelphotobooth/Flickr


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