Use of mobile phones and changes in cognitive function in adolescents

Occup Environ Med. 2010 Dec;67(12):861-6. doi: 10.1136/oem.2009.054080. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Background: Several studies have investigated the impact of mobile phone exposure on cognitive function in adults. However, children and adolescents are of special interest due to their developing nervous systems.

Methods: Data were derived from the Australian Mobile Radiofrequency Phone Exposed Users' Study (MoRPhEUS) which comprised a baseline examination of year 7 students during 2005/2006 and a 1-year follow-up. Sociodemographic and exposure data were collected with a questionnaire. Cognitive functions were assessed with a computerised test battery and the Stroop Color-Word test.

Results: 236 students participated in both examinations. The proportion of mobile phone owners and the number of voice calls and short message services (SMS) per week increased from baseline to follow-up. Participants with more voice calls and SMS at baseline showed less reductions in response times over the 1-year period in various computerised tasks. Furthermore, those with increased voice calls and SMS exposure over the 1-year period showed changes in response time in a simple reaction and a working memory task. No associations were seen between mobile phone exposure and the Stroop test.

Conclusions: We have observed that some changes in cognitive function, particularly in response time rather than accuracy, occurred with a latency period of 1 year and that some changes were associated with increased exposure. However, the increased exposure was mainly applied to those who had fewer voice calls and SMS at baseline, suggesting that these changes over time may relate to statistical regression to the mean, and not be the effect of mobile phone exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Cognition / radiation effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / radiation effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Radio Waves*
  • Reaction Time / radiation effects