Mobile phone exposure-related effects on the human electroencephalogram (EEG) have been shown during both waking and sleep states, albeit with slight differences in the frequency affected. This discrepancy, combined with studies that failed to find effects, has led many to conclude that no consistent effects exist. We hypothesised that these differences might partly be due to individual variability in response, and that mobile phone emissions may in fact have large but differential effects on human brain activity. Twenty volunteers from our previous study underwent an adaptation night followed by two experimental nights in which they were randomly exposed to two conditions (Active and Sham), followed by a full-night sleep episode. The EEG spectral power was increased in the sleep spindle frequency range in the first 30 min of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep following Active exposure. This increase was more prominent in the participants that showed an increase in the original study. These results confirm previous findings of mobile phone-like emissions affecting the EEG during non-REM sleep. Importantly, this low-level effect was also shown to be sensitive to individual variability. Furthermore, this indicates that previous negative results are not strong evidence for a lack of an effect and, given the far-reaching implications of mobile phone research, we may need to rethink the interpretation of results and the manner in which research is conducted in this field.
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