Cell Phone Usage Damages Memory

Cell Phone Usage Damages Memory
A research team from Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheba, Israel, found that talking on a cellular phone harms the mental abilities of the user. This research may serve as a warning against one of the gadgets most of us use daily.

The influence of cellular phones on brain functions and general health has been widely researched in recent years. Most of the experiments try to understand whether electromagnetic radiation is cancerous or not. Researchers from Ben Gurion University and Soreq Research Center for Nuclear Energy have decided to take a closer look at the effect mobile phones have on people’s cognitive functions.

The participants in the experiment were 48 right-handed men. Cell phones were attached to both their ears and the participants were put through several tests which engaged their memory and required the use of both hands simultaneously. In the course of the experiment the subjects were presented with three consecutive squares, each containing a face image in one of eight specific locations. The subjects then had to tell whether a fourth face image presented had appeared among the previous three. If it was, the subject had to press a button with his right hand and if it wasn’t, he had to press another button with his left. During the experiment one third of the participants were subjected to a working phone on the right side of their head, one third to a working phone on the left side, and one third to no working phone at all. The subjects had not taken part in phone conversations and did not know which one of the phones (if any) was active during the experiment.

When right-handed subjects were exposed to a cellular phone near the left side of their heads, the resulting effect was greatest. Their reaction time on the task became longer in comparison to those subjects who had a phone working near the left side of their heads and also to those that had no working phone at all. It is notable that the results were more robust during the first ten minutes of the experiment (the first two trials) than the rest of the experiment.

Dr. Ronen Hareuveni, head of the electromagnetic radiation department at Soreq’s research center for nuclear energy, said that while the mobile phones that were used in the experiment were producing maximum electromagnetic radiation, which is not likely to happen for long periods of time in day-to-day life, the results were clear even after a relatively short exposure. The reaction time lengthening found in the experiment was especially significant in subjects who had a working phone close to the left hemisphere of their brain.

While it is clearly dangerous to draw drastic conclusions based on the results of a single experiment; such results should not be ignored and placed on a shelf either. The scientists say that further research, with greater number of subjects and various experimental designs, should be conducted in order to give us a clearer picture of the mobile phones’ influence on memory and other mental functions.

TFOT has recently brought you several stories on the dangers of excess cellular usage. We’ve written about the discovery that cell phone radiation can alter DNA expression, which was made by scientists from the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. We’ve also covered the story of a Chinese welder, who died as a result of a mobile phone explosion.

Image icon credit: Sascha Pohflepp

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About the author

Anni Shaer Levitt

Anni has a B.Sc. in Psychology and Biology from the Hebrew University and is currently working on her M.Sc in Neurobiology. Her thesis will focus on face perception and processing.

View all articles by Anni Shaer Levitt