- Britian's first official investigation
into the health effects of mobile phones has found that, far from causing
memory loss, they can actually improve mental performance.
- A study using volunteers who had dummy
mobile phones strapped to their heads while carrying out psychological
tests has overturned the popular view that the telephones cause people
to forget things.
- In the only research in the world on
the effects of mobile phones on the human brain, scientists from Bristol
University found that the phones significantly improved the speed it took
to carry out mental tasks.
- Although it does not address concerns
about potential cancer risks, the surprise findings will come as a comfort
to the estimated 10 million users of mobile phones in Britain who have
been subjected to a series of scare stories about the potential mental
effects caused by microwaves from their handsets.
- Alan Preece, the Bristol researcher who
carried out the study, funded by the Department of Health, is understood
to have briefed the Government about the results.
- Dr Preece used 36 volunteers who wore
a special helmet fitted with a mobile phone on the left side. They carried
out a series of psychological tests lasting between 25 and 35 minutes whilst
the power was switched either on or off.
- He found that people were just as good
- or bad - at memory tests whether the power was running or not.
- However, he also discovered that it took
people less time to react to a stimulus when the power to the mobile phone
was switched on.
- This was more evident when the emissions
from the experiment were designed to mimic an analogue mobile rather than
the newer digital phones.
- Although Dr Preece has refused to comment
on the research until is it published in the International Journal of Radiation
Biology, one suggestion is that this might be caused by stimulating the
part of the brain's left hemisphere that acts as a communications channel
between the centres of vision and speech.
- The study's preliminary findings have
been misreported by a number of national newspapers, claiming that mobiles
cause memory loss. Dr Preece said that the reports are "substantially
inaccurate" and "based on pure guesswork".
- Research by other scientists has centred
on test-tube studies or laboratory rats. Their equivocal findings, however,
have failed to substantiate controversial reports that mobile phones cause
cancer, amnesia and other problems.
- Britain's radiation watchdog, the National
Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), has said: "There is no convincing
scientific evidence of a health risk to humans resulting from mobile phone
- However, it is supporting more "high
quality" research to investigate the potential risks.