An extremely low-frequency magnetic field (ELF-MF) is generated by power lines and household electrical devices. Many studies have suggested an association between chronic ELF-MF exposure and anxiety and/or depression. The mechanism of these effects is assumed to be a stress response induced by ELF-MF exposure. However, this mechanism remains controversial. In the present study, we investigated whether chronic ELF-MF exposure (intensity, 1.5 mT; [corrected] total exposure, 200 h) affected emotional behavior and corticosterone synthesis in mice. ELF-MF-treated mice showed a significant increase in total immobility time in a forced swim test and showed latency to enter the light box in a light-dark transition test, compared with sham-treated (control) mice. Corticosterone secretion was significantly high in the ELF-MF-exposed mice; however, no changes were observed in the amount of the adrenocorticotropic hormone and the expression of genes related to stress response. Quantification of the mRNA levels of adrenal corticosteroid synthesis enzymes revealed a significant reduction in Cyp17a1 mRNA in the ELF-MF-exposed mice. Our findings suggest the possibility that high intensity and chronic exposure to ELF-MF induces an increase in corticosterone secretion, along with depression- and/or anxiety-like behavior, without enhancement of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
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