Altered cortical excitability in subjectively electrosensitive patients: results of a pilot study

J Psychosom Res. 2007 Mar;62(3):283-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2006.11.007.


Objective: Hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields is frequently claimed to be linked to a variety of unspecific somatic and/or neuropsychological complaints. Whereas provocation studies often failed to demonstrate a causal relationship between electromagnetic field exposure and symptom formation, neurophysiological examinations highlight baseline deviations in people claiming to be electrosensitive.

Methods: To elucidate a potential role of dysfunctional cortical regulations in mediating hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields, cortical excitability parameters were measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation in subjectively electrosensitive patients (n=23) and two control groups (n=49) differing in their level of unspecific health complaints.

Results: Electrosensitive patients showed reduced intracortical facilitation as compared to both control groups, while motor thresholds and intracortical inhibition were unaffected.

Conclusions: This pilot study gives additional evidence that altered central nervous system function may account for symptom manifestation in subjectively electrosensitive patients as has been postulated for several chronic multisymptom illnesses sharing a similar clustering of symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Electromyography
  • Environmental Illness / diagnosis
  • Environmental Illness / physiopathology*
  • Environmental Illness / psychology
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Sick Role
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation