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Study: Cell Phones Can Speed Up Brain Activity, Long-Term Effects Remain Unclear

human brainA new study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that using cell phones can change the way our brains behave, though it remains unclear whether these changes can be harmful.

The study, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that just 50 minutes of cell phone use can noticeably speed up brain activity in the region closest to the phone's antenna. While overall brain metabolism didn't change when exposed to wireless radiation, activity in the area next to the antenna spiked by 7-percent. Dr. Nora Volkow, who led the study, told Reuters that the findings are significant because they demonstrate that even weak radiation from cell phones can alter the brain's metabolism. But she added that it's still too early to tell whether or not cell phones pose a tangible neurological risk, emphasizing that the results do "not in any way indicate that" cell phones can cause cancer.

Preliminary as its results may be, Volkow's study has been met with keen interest from many in the health community -- including Louis Slein, editor of a newsletter called Microwave News, which focuses on the effects that electromagnetic radiation can have on our health. "It's a high-quality team, well regarded, and if nothing else they're showing that radiation is doing something in the brain," Slein told the New York Times. "The dogma in the cellphone community says that it doesn't do anything. What she's shown is that it does do something, and the next thing to find out is what it's doing and whether it's causing harm."

There are already a few theories about the long-term effects these changes could have. Some worry that artificially stimulated brain metabolism could create molecules called free radicals, which can often destroy healthy brain cells. Others have speculated that persistent exposure to electromagnetic radiation could trigger some sort of inflammatory reaction, which has been associated with cancer.

Thus far, however, most studies have been unable to find conclusive evidence linking cell phones to cancer -- something that the mobile industry is eager to point out. "The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices, within the limits established by the FCC, do not pose a public health risk or cause any adverse health effects," said John Walls, vice president of industry trade group CTIA - The Wireless Association. Until the medical community arrives at a hard consensus, though, Volkow says she'll continue wearing an earpiece when she talks on the phone: "I don't say there is any risk, but in case there is, why not?"

Tags: brain, cancer, cellphones, CellPhonesAndCancer, electromagnetic, health, metabolism, radiation, research, science, study, top