- 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
- 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,'''
- 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.