A recently published study exploring the effects of frequent mobile phone use on the brain claims long-term exposure slows brain functions. But at the same time, frequent mobile phone users showed better focused attention. No conclusions can be drawn as to whether these effects are adverse to health or not, but data has been collected from more that 20,000 people to replicate this study and further investigate health risks. What is a brain to think?
In the September issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience a study will be published on the long term effects of mobile phone use on brain function. Past studies have investigated the acute effects of mobile phone use on brain function. But this study employs an epidemiological approach to investigate the long-term effects of mobile phone use on brain function.
In this study 300 people were broken into three groups of 100. A third were ‘frequent mobile phone users’, a third ‘intermediate users’ and a third ‘non-mobile phone users’. Brain activity was measured using Quantative EEGs. Neuropsychological functions such as attention, memory and executive function were measured. Personality traits were also assessed.
Frequent mobile phone users tended to be more extraverted. The study considers the extraversion to be a cause for using mobile phones more, not an effect from using mobile phones. But the study did find that frequent use of mobile phones trains the brain to be more focused. Making calls in busy environments increases attention by training the brain to filter out irrelevant environmental information while talking on the phone.
Unfortunately, the brain activity from frequent mobile phone users shows more slow activity (increased Delta and Theta) and a slowing of the Alpha Peak Frequency, interpreted as a general slowing of brain activity. Slowed brain activity could not be explained by personality traits or environmental conditioning.
“In Alzheimer’s dementia you also find a severely slowing of brain activity. However, the slowing found in this study, with mobile phone users, can still be considered within ‘normal’ limits” according to Martijn Arns, the main investigator. “The frequent mobile phone user group used their mobile phone – at the time of data collection – only 2.4 years on average which can currently be considered as a short time. Therefore, it is to be further investigated whether the observed effects in this study are more severe with prolonged mobile phone use” according to Martijn Arns.
If this study proves to be accurate, in the future psychiatrists may prescribe mobile phone use instead of drugs. If a child has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) what better medicine than daily phone calls from a noisy mall to friends? Exercise that brain to concentrate, don’t medicate. Maybe people with a sleeping disorder could call up soothing music and place the phone on the pillow for some brain downtime.
Of course, all these studies about the effects on the health of mobile phone users may be meaningless. Remember how a few months ago mobile devices were being blamed for the disappearance of honey bees? It turns out they caught a virus. It is too early to panic about the dangers, or brag about the benefits, of the effects of mobile phone use. That’s what a brain is to think.