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Cellphone use affects brain activity after 50 minutes Special

By Kathleen Blanchard     Feb 22, 2011 in Health
New research shows cellphones excite the brain by stimulating glucose that can affect decision making, and thinking and impair the senses.
Results of a new study reveals cellphones increase excitability in the brain. The findings come from a team of researchers led by the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, psychiatrist Nora D. Volkow, MD, showing just 50 minutes of radiation exposure from a cell phone boosts glucose levels in the brain that can alter genes and the way cells function.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The scientists, working with the non-profit group Environmental Health Trust (EHT), say their research shows the need for cell phone warnings, improved safety standards and ongoing research.
Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., chair of EHT’s Board, cancer biologist and physician says “This stunning report indicates that even short-term exposure to nerve cells from cell phones can increase glucose in the brain" that indicates excitability. He says until larger studies are carried out, it's important to take precautions to avoid exposure to cell phone radiation.
The researchers used PET scans to look at glucose and energy metabolism in the brain to "see" the effects of non-ionizing radiation of the type delivered by cell phones.
Richard A. Stein, M.D., Ph.D, EHT scientific advisor, explains, "As glucose is the sole energy source in the brain under normal dietary conditions, and there is an absolute requirement for glucose during synaptic transmission in the nervous system, the results of the current study emerge as even more significant.”
He notes the researchers aren't sure if changes in glucose metabolism are caused directly from microwave radiation or as a secondary effect. Dr. Stein says one thing is certain however - ... "the current study clearly reveals changes in a pathway that is essential for brain energy metabolism and synaptic transmission, and is intimately interconnected with other pathways that fulfill fundamental roles in biological systems."
Lloyd Morgan, Senior Science Advisor to EHT, says cellphone company standards fail to address any possible effect that cell phone microwave radiation could have on the body, short or long-term. He says it's time they revised their standards.
What the study shows is areas of the brain affected by cellphone radiation and increased glucose are those "involved in thinking, sensing and decision making, including repression of antisocial behavior.”
A 2008 study from Finnish researchers found forearm skin exposed to cell phone radiation for one hour resulted in changes in 8 proteins in 10 volunteers and 2 proteins in two volunteers.
Dr. Devra Lee Davis, president and founder of Environmental Health Trust also notes cellphone standards make assumptions about safety. In the current study, phones with a SAR of less than 1 W/kg caused significant glucose increases in the brain that indicates excitability.
Brain tumors have been a concern of scientists related to cell phone use, but Dr. Davis says that's just the "tip of the iceberg". She wonders if the brain's excitability from microwave exposure could explain addiction to cell phones and notes it takes years of biological changes to see the long-term impact.
The EHT is working within U.S., in Israel, France, Finland and other countries to encourage independent cell phone safety studies and to spread safety messages to users to take simple precautions like using speaker phone, headsets, limiting call time and protecting children who may be more vulnerable to the effects of radiation.
The study shows cell phone radiation induces brain excitability after just 50 minutes in areas that are critical for thinking and judgment. Until more studies are carried out, Dr. Davis warns it may be misleading to science and the public to conclude cell phones are safe.
Dr. Stein, in an exclusive statement via e-mail had this to say, summing up the study's importance:
The recent JAMA article by Volkow and colleagues represents a landmark public health study. We know, from a wealth of previous studies, that cell phone radiation causes biological changes - they were shown in several species by using various experimental approaches. What makes the Volkow study particularly relevant, is that the effects on glucose metabolism in the human brain are shown to occur in vivo, in the regions closest to the source of exposure, and after a relatively short time.
Importantly, the study was conducted on healthy participants, and we need to learn more about perturbations that occur in individuals with specific health conditions and predispositions. The same metabolic perturbation in the brain could have dramatically different consequences for two different individuals, depending on many factors - just like a small increase in blood pressure may be relatively well tolerated or even go unnoticed by a healthy individual, yet it could have significantly different consequences for someone with cardiovascular disease.
Perturbations in brain glucose metabolism could be a reflection of other changes that preceded and triggered them and, at the same time, they could themselves trigger other types of changes - for example, it is known that glucose is an absolute requirement for synaptic transmission in the brain. The implications of the fascinating article by Volkow and collaborators are tremendous.
JAMA. 2011;305(8):828-829: doi:10.1001/jama.2011.201
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