Review of possible modulation-dependent biological effects of radiofrequency fields

Bioelectromagnetics. 2011 Oct;32(7):511-34. doi: 10.1002/bem.20652. Epub 2011 Apr 7.


The biological effects of modulated radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields have been a subject of debate since early publications more than 30 years ago, suggesting that relatively weak amplitude-modulated RF electromagnetic fields have specific biological effects different from the well-known thermal effects of RF energy. This discussion has been recently activated by the increasing human exposure to RF fields from wireless communication systems. Modulation is used in all wireless communication systems to enable the signal to carry information. A previous review in 1998 indicated that experimental evidence for modulation-specific effects of RF energy is weak. This article reviews recent studies (published after 1998) on the biological effects of modulated RF fields. The focus is on studies that have compared the effects of modulated and unmodulated (continuous wave) RF fields, or compared the effects of different kinds of modulations; studies that used only one type of signal are not included. While the majority of recent studies have reported no modulation-specific effects, there are a few interesting exceptions indicating that there may be specific effects from amplitude-modulated RF fields on the human central nervous system. These findings warrant follow-up studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Causality
  • Cell Phone*
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology
  • Nervous System / radiation effects*
  • Proteins / radiation effects
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Proteins
  • DNA