While this study doesn’t prove a positive link, it supports my worry that one may eventually be found between cell phone usage and brain cancer. – Ilene
HENRIK SORENSEN/GETTY IMAGES
Do cell phones cause cancer? We’d all like to know, but unfortunately there’s no clear answer — yet. Now an intriguing new study takes a first step toward a possible answer, suggesting that holding your cell phone to your ear does have a measurable effect on the brain, even during cell-phone sessions of less than an hour.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of the National Institutes of Health), reports Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that a cell phone’s electromagnetic field can cause changes in brain activity. Specifically, she and her team found that the regions nearest to the antenna of closely held mobile devices showed higher rates of energy (or glucose) consumption.
Before you start to panic that all your cell-phone confessionals have set you up for some kind of brain tumor, remember this: higher rates of glucose metabolism in the brain can mean a number of things. Yes, tumor cells may gobble up more glucose to fuel their relentless growth, but healthy brain cells need constant replenishment too, to keep up the intricate network of messages and connections that help us think, eat, move and stay alive. Depending on what you’re doing, different areas of your brain will require more glucose — if you’re playing Scrabble, your language centers might demand more attention, while deep emotions such as grief or euphoria will cause neurons involved in the mood-regulating limbic system to consume more energy.
Researchers found that the brain regions closest to the active phone’s antenna showed the highest rates of glucose activity, and Volkow says the next step is to understand what that means. “Is this a temporary change that recovers every single time, or do chronic, long periods of exposure potentially have long-lasting effects? We need to know that,” she says.
The study is the first to look at glucose metabolism as a marker for the effect of a magnetic field. Previous studies have tracked changes in blood flow in the brain, but, as Volkow points, out, blood flow is dependent on cell activity, so glucose use more closely measures how neurons may be affected by phone signals.
Because nerve cells make up the majority of the brain, Volkow and her team assume that the heightened activity reflects more excited nerve cells, but she acknowledges that other factors could be at work as well. For example, there may also be more activity in glial cells, which aren’t neurons but are critical to feeding energy to nerve cells. Glial cells act on blood vessels to increase the flow of glucose, oxygen and other nutrients that neurons need to send electrical signals throughout the brain. Glia are also important in helping nerves make new connections, and without them, neurons start to die.
The new findings provide yet more intriguing data on how cell-phone use may be affecting our health, and while the research is still frustratingly preliminary — it documents changes, but not whether those changes are good or bad — Volkow, for one, isn’t taking any chances.
Full article here >
Lady GaGa ft. Beyoncé – Telephone