Effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields on cognitive processes - a pilot study on pulsed field interference with cognitive regeneration

Acta Neurol Scand. 2004 Jul;110(1):46-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2004.00260.x.


Background: Due to the ubiquitous use of cellular phones much has been speculated on secondary effects of electromagnetic irradiation emitted by those. Additionally, several studies have reported vegetative alterations as well as effects on the neuronal and molecular levels in humans. Here, using a psycho-physiological test paradigm, we examined effects of exposure to pulsed electromagnetic fields on cognitive performance.

Materials and methods: In 11 volunteers, we tested cognitive processing under field exposure (GSM standard) and under field-free conditions. To examine the hypothesized effect of pulsed fields, we applied an auditory discrimination task and determined the participant's current 'Order Threshold' value. Following a first test cycle, the volunteers had to relax for 50 min while being, or not, exposed to pulsed electromagnetic fields. Subsequently, the test was repeated. Data acquired before and after the resting phase were compared from both experimental conditions.

Results: We found that nine of the 11 test participants (81.8%) showed worse results in their auditory discrimination performance upon field exposure as compared with control conditions. Group data comparison revealed a statistical significance of P = 0.0105.

Conclusion: We could show that the participants' cognitive performance was impaired after exposure to pulsed electromagnetic fields. With regard to this finding, we recommend that the use of cellular phones should be restricted generally and in particular in respect of physical hazard of high-risk groups, e.g. elderly, children and ill people.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Cell Phone / standards*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognition / radiation effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / radiation effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sound Localization / physiology
  • Sound Localization / radiation effects