Stress-related endocrinological and psychopathological effects of short- and long-term 50Hz electromagnetic field exposure in rats

Brain Res Bull. 2010 Jan 15;81(1):92-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.10.015.


It is believed that different electromagnetic fields do have beneficial and harmful biological effects. The aim of the present work was to study the long-term consequences of 50 Hz electromagnetic field (ELF-EMF) exposure with special focus on the development of chronic stress and stress-induced psychopathology. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to ELF-EMF (50 Hz, 0.5 mT) for 5 days, 8h daily (short) or for 4-6 weeks, 24h daily (long). Anxiety was studied in elevated plus maze test, whereas depression-like behavior of the long-treated group was examined in the forced swim test. Some days after behavioral examination, the animals were decapitated among resting conditions and organ weights, blood hormone levels as well as proopiomelanocortin mRNA level from the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland were measured. Both treatments were ineffective on somatic parameters, namely none of the changes characteristic to chronic stress (body weight reduction, thymus involution and adrenal gland hypertrophy) were present. An enhanced blood glucose level was found after prolonged ELF-EMF exposure (p=0.013). The hormonal stress reaction was similar in control and short-term exposed rats, but significant proopiomelanocortin elevation (p<0.000) and depressive-like behavior (enhanced floating time; p=0.006) were found following long-term ELF-EMF exposure. Taken together, long and continuous exposure to relatively high intensity electromagnetic field may count as a mild stress situation and could be a factor in the development of depressive state or metabolic disturbances. Although we should stress that the average intensity of the human exposure is normally much smaller than in the present experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / blood
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Blood Glucose / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pituitary Gland, Anterior / physiopathology
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone