Spending 50 minutes on a cell phone is enough to increase activity in the part of the brain closest to the phone’s antenna.
A study out of the National Institutes of Health published Tuesday shows that the electromagnetic fields produced by cell phones boost activity. It’s not clear whether that causes the brain any harm.
The study’s author, Dr. Nora Volkow of the NIH, is quick to point out that the study does not settle the debate over whether cell phones cause cancer. But, she said, the findings don’t rule it out.
“Had we not seen an effect of cell phone exposure it would have been much easier to dismiss any concern of potential negatives of cell phones,” Volkow said.
In brain scans, the activity looked similar to what happens naturally when the brain is stimulated, as in the speech center when someone is talking.
Experiments looking at the connection between cell phone use and cancer have been inconclusive so far, and experts say it will be years before a cause-and-effect relationship can be definitively proved or disproved.
Until then, many are trying to reduce their exposure to cell phone radiation, just in case. Olga Naidenko, from the advocacy organization the Environmental Working group, recommends texting more and talking less, as phones emit the most radiation when they are transmitting the spoken word.
The cell phone “is farther away from the body and it emits less radiation while the text signal is sent out,” Naidenko said.
Headsets that plug into your phone put more distance between your brain and the phone. Wireless headsets such as a Bluetooth are also better than phones, but they contain small transmitters that emit a bit of radiation themselves, so they should be turned off when not in use.
Naidenko said individual phones vary greatly in how much radiation they emit, but there is no difference across the board between smart phones and older models.