Cell Phone-Like Microwave
Exposure Reduces
Memory In Rats
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Studies in rats suggest that prolonged exposure to pulsed microwaves " similar to those emitted by cell phones " may cause damage to long-term spatial learning and memory.
The rats, forced to swim to an obscured platform "seemed to have trouble making a map in their heads'' after one hour of steady exposure to microwaves, explained study co-author Dr. Henry Lai of the University of Washington in Seattle. He and his colleague Dr. Baoming Wang report their results in the January issue of the journal Bioelectromagnetics.
In their study, the Seattle researchers trained a group of young male rats to swim to a hidden platform submerged in a tank of clouded water. Before each training session, some of the rats were exposed to one hour's worth of pulsed microwaves, similar to those emitted by conventional cell phones.
According to Lai, "the microwave-exposed rats were much slower in finding the platform'' compared with non-exposed rats. ''They tended to spend more time attempting to climb the wall of the pool or swimming along the wall,'' rather than heading directly for the platform, he explained in a University statement.
In contrast, rats unexposed to microwaves seemed to be relying on their stored, long-term memory of the platform's location. "They seemed to be scratching their heads, saying 'We thought it was here,''' Lai said.
He believes that the stored spatial 'mapping' memory of the irradiated rats may have been "affected after their (microwave) exposure. It could be that they had to resort to a simpler learning strategy that just didn't work as well.''
According to the authors, previous studies suggest that microwave exposure interferes with the activity of the brain chemical cholinesterase. They point out that 'cholinergic' pathways in the brain "are involved in 'place' learning.''
This is the first study to link radiowave exposure to long-term memory problems, according to Lai. "I don't think (people should be concerned) at this point,'' the Seattle researcher told Reuters Health. "There are concerns, but I don't think we have enough data to tell people not to use the phone.'' He believes more study is needed before scientists can come to any definite conclusion regarding the effects of cell phone use in humans.
SOURCE: Bioelectromagnetics January 2000.


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