Autism-relevant social abnormalities in mice exposed perinatally to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2014 Oct:37:58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2014.06.010. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


The incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been rising, but the causes of ASD remain largely unidentified. Collective data have implicated the increased human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the increasing incidence of ASD. There are established biological effects of extremely low-frequency (ELF) EMF, but the relation to ASD is not investigated enough. In this study we examined the effects of perinatal exposure to ELF EMF on some ASD-relevant behavioral parameters in mice. The EMF was delivered via a Helmholtz coil pair. Male BALB/C mice were used and divided into exposed and control groups (n=8 and n=9, respectively). Tests were used to assess sociability, preference for social novelty, locomotion, anxiety, exploratory behavior, motor coordination, and olfaction. The examined mice were all males and exposed to EMF during the last week of gestation and for 7 days after delivery. The exposed mice demonstrated a lack of normal sociability and preference for social novelty while maintaining normal anxiety-like behavior, locomotion, motor coordination, and olfaction. Exposed mice also demonstrated decreased exploratory activity. We concluded that these results are supportive of the hypothesis of a causal link between exposure to ELF-EMF and ASD; however, replications of the study with further tests are recommended.

Keywords: Anxiety; Autism spectrum disorder; Electromagnetic field; Motor coordination; Perinatal exposure; Social novelty.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Exploratory Behavior / radiation effects
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Locomotion / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology*