Does exposure to GSM 900 MHz mobile phone radiation affect short-term memory of elementary school students?

J Pediatr Neurosci. 2014 May;9(2):121-4. doi: 10.4103/1817-1745.139300.


Background: Now-a-days, children are exposed to mobile phone radiation at a very early age. We have previously shown that a large proportion of children in the city of Shiraz, Iran use mobile phones. Furthermore, we have indicated that the visual reaction time (VRT) of university students was significantly affected by a 10 min real/sham exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phone. We found that these exposures decreased the reaction time which might lead to a better response to different hazards. We have also revealed that occupational exposures to radar radiations decreased the reaction time in radar workers. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether short-term exposure of elementary school students to radiofrequency (RF) radiation leads to changes in their reaction time and short-term memory.

Materials and methods: A total of 60 elementary school children ages ranging from 8 to 10 years studying at a public elementary school in Shiraz, Iran were enrolled in this study. Standardized computer-based tests of VRT and short-term memory (modified for children) were administered. The students were asked to perform some preliminary tests for orientation with the VRT test. After orientation, to reduce the random variation of measurements, each test was repeated ten times in both real and sham exposure phases. The time interval between the two subsequent sham and real exposure phases was 30 min.

Results: The mean ± standard deviation reaction times after a 10 min talk period and after a 10 min sham exposure (switched off mobile) period were 249.0 ± 82.3 ms and 252.9 ± 68.2 ms (P = 0.629), respectively. On the other hand, the mean short-term memory scores after the talk and sham exposure periods were 1062.60 ± 305.39, and 1003.84 ± 339.68 (P = 0.030), respectively.

Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show that short-term exposure of elementary school students to RF radiation leads to the better performance of their short-term memory.

Keywords: Children; cognitive responses; elementary school students; global system for mobile communication; mobile phone; radiofrequency; reaction time; short-term memory.