The acute effects of exposure to the electromagnetic field emitted by mobile phones on human attention

Neuroreport. 2002 Jan 21;13(1):119-21. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200201210-00028.


The aim of our study was to investigate the effects of acute mobile phone exposure on a range of tasks which tapped capacity and processing speed within the attentional system. Thirty-eight healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to either an experimental group which was exposed to a connected mobile phone or a control group in which the mobile phone was switched off. Subjects remained blind to mobile phone status throughout duration of study. The experimental group were exposed to an electromagnetic field emitted by a 900 MHz mobile phone for 30 min. Cognitive performance was assessed at three points (prior to mobile phone exposure, at 15 and 30 min post-exposure) using six cognitive neuropsychological tests (digit span and spatial span forwards and backwards, serial subtraction and verbal fluency). Significant differences between the two groups were evident after 5 min on two tests of attentional capacity (digit span forwards and spatial span backwards) and one of processing speed (serial subtraction). In all three instances, performance was facilitated following mobile phone exposure. No deficits were evident. These findings are discussed in terms of possible functional and neuroanatomical bases.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / radiation effects*
  • Cognition / radiation effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Mental Processes / radiation effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Telephone*
  • Time Factors