Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on the human nervous system

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2009 Oct;12(8):572-97. doi: 10.1080/10937400903458940.


The effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMF), specifically related to the use of mobile telephones, on the nervous system in humans have been the subject of a large number of experimental studies in recent years. There is some evidence of an effect of exposure to a Global System for Mobile Telecommunication (GSM)-type signal on the spontaneous electroencephalogram (EEG). This is not corroborated, however, by the results from studies on evoked potentials. Although there is some evidence emerging that there may be an effect of exposure to a GSM-type signal on sleep EEG, results are still variable. In summary, exposure to a GSM-type signal may result in minor effects on brain activity, but such changes have never been found to relate to any adverse health effects. No consistent significant effects on cognitive performance in adults have been observed. If anything, any effect is small and exposure seems to improve performance. Effects in children did not differ from those in healthy adults. Studies on auditory and vestibular function are more unequivocal: neither hearing nor the sense of balance is influenced by short-term exposure to mobile phone signals. Subjective symptoms over a wide range, including headaches and migraine, fatigue, and skin itch, have been attributed to various radiofrequency sources both at home and at work. However, in provocation studies a causal relation between EMF exposure and symptoms has never been demonstrated. There are clear indications, however, that psychological factors such as the conscious expectation of effect may play an important role in this condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Evoked Potentials / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / radiation effects*