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Cellphones Handhelds Science

Cell Phone Use Tied To Changes In Brain Activity 191

Posted by timothy
from the hi-tara dept.
Takichi writes "The New York Times is reporting on research linking cell phone use and increased metabolism, with high statistical significance, in the areas of the brain close to the antenna. The study was led by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and is published (abstract) in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The impact, good or bad, of the increased stimulation is speculative, but this research shows there is a direct relationship between cell phone signals and the brain that warrants further study."
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Cell Phone Use Tied To Changes In Brain Activity

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  • by Zakabog (603757) <john AT jmaug DOT com> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:32AM (#35289288)

    The call was muted to avoid any issues with the sound causing an increase in brain activity.

    What i'd like to know is how close was the phone to the ear? They said the part of the brain closest to the antenna showed the increase in activity but if the phone is that close to the head then it seems entirely possible that it was affected by the heat ahone generates in a 50 minute phone call.

    I feel like they should redo the experiment, actually do something where the antenna is seperate from the phone body and next to the brain. Also why not test multiple scenarios, left phone on in a call, right phone on in a call, both phones in a call, both phones off, both phones on, etc. This experiment just tested both phones on, both phones off and right phone on. It seems kind of half assed.

  • Re:Unsure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:44AM (#35289368) Homepage
    There is a real disconnect between the single picture and the article text. The picture posted in the NYT shows increased diffused uptake, perhaps a predominance on the right side (the side with the active cell phone) but it's anything but obvious. From all of the chatter surrounding the article, I hope to hell that the actual quantitative results are better founded and the picture just isn't very useful.

    TFA claims that the study is high quality and if they can get reasonable results from 47 people, they had to see a substantive difference. Still and all, it's a relatively easy experiment to repeat and I assume that is in progress as we speak. I'd like to see some better controls (both left and right active, a determination of how repeatable the fMRI values are in a given person over a couple of hours just to name two off the top of my head).

    As everyone has been taking great pains to note, this doesn't show anything but a putative effect of putting an active cell phone next to your head - it's neither good nor bad and it's not necessarily due to the radio emissions (that's an assumption).
  • Re:Unsure (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:59AM (#35289532)

    It could be something as simple as the phone gets warmer, increasing the rate of chemical reactions on that side of the brain.

    From TFA (stolen from another AC [slashdot.org]):

    They said the activity was unlikely to be associated with heat from the phone because it occurred near the antenna rather than where the phone touched the head.

    Not relevant. Microwave amplifiers are not known for high efficiencies. So most of the battery energy goes into heating the handset circuit board up. The rest goes into the antenna, of which some fraction will go into simple thermal RF tissue heating (see radio-diathermy or just diathermy).

    Dumping a couple milliwatts of RF generated thermal energy into the side of your head has about the same effect as dumping a couple milliwatts of natural gas generated thermal energy into the side of your head, in other words something measurable but irrelevant, compared to sunlight, etc.

    Curious they used cellphones. You'd think cordless would be similar power level, frequencies, and much cheaper, but probably not as good for scare mongering and FUD...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:08AM (#35289606)

    With only 47 participants this study has, in my eyes, about the same validity as the average undergrad study

    47 is actually a very large number for a PET study, where scanning each participant costs a few thousand dollars. Typical PET & fMRI studies scan between 10-20 participants. As always, reliability comes from replication.

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