Objective: To analyze the effects of long-term microwave exposure on hippocampal structure and function in the rat.
Methods: Experiments were performed on 184 male Wistar rats (three exposure groups and a sham group). Microwaves were applied daily for 6 min over 1 month at average power densities of 2.5, 5, and 10 mW/cm2. Learning and memory abilities were assessed by Morris water maze. High performance liquid chromatography was used to detect neurotransmitter concentrations in the hippocampus. Hippocampal structures were observed by histopathological analysis.
Results: Following long-term microwave exposure there was a significant decrease in learning and memory activity in the 7 d, 14 d, and 1 m in all three microwave exposure groups. Neurotransmitter concentrations of four amino acids (glutamate, aspartic acid, glycine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid) in hippocampus were increased in the 2.5 and 5 mW/cm2 groups and decreased in the 10 mW/cm2 group. There was evidence of neuronal degeneration and enlarged perivascular spaces in the hippocampus in the microwave exposure groups. Further, mitochondria became swollen and cristae were disordered. The rough endoplasmic reticulum exhibited sacculated distension and there was a decrease in the quantity of synaptic vesicles.
Conclusion: These data suggest that the hippocampus can be injured by long-term microwave exposure, which might result in impairment of cognitive function due to neurotransmitter disruption.