Cognitive and physiological responses in humans exposed to a TETRA base station signal in relation to perceived electromagnetic hypersensitivity

Bioelectromagnetics. 2012 Jan;33(1):23-39. doi: 10.1002/bem.20681. Epub 2011 Jun 6.


Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) technology ("Airwave") has led to public concern because of its potential interference with electrical activity in the brain. The present study is the first to examine whether acute exposure to a TETRA base station signal has an impact on cognitive functioning and physiological responses. Participants were exposed to a 420 MHz TETRA signal at a power flux density of 10 mW/m(2) as well as sham (no signal) under double-blind conditions. Fifty-one people who reported a perceived sensitivity to electromagnetic fields as well as 132 controls participated in a double-blind provocation study. Forty-eight sensitive and 132 control participants completed all three sessions. Measures of short-term memory, working memory, and attention were administered while physiological responses (blood volume pulse, heart rate, skin conductance) were monitored. After applying exclusion criteria based on task performance for each aforementioned cognitive measure, data were analyzed for 36, 43, and 48 sensitive participants for these respective tasks and, likewise, 107,125, and 129 controls. We observed no differences in cognitive performance between sham and TETRA exposure in either group; physiological response also did not differ between the exposure conditions. These findings are similar to previous double-blind studies with other mobile phone signals (900-2100 MHz), which could not establish any clear evidence that mobile phone signals affect health or cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Volume / radiation effects
  • Cognition / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / radiation effects
  • Heart Rate / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / radiation effects
  • Physiological Phenomena / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Telecommunications / instrumentation*