Behavioral testing of mice exposed to intermediate frequency magnetic fields indicates mild memory impairment

PLoS One. 2017 Dec 4;12(12):e0188880. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188880. eCollection 2017.


Human exposure to intermediate frequency magnetic fields (MF) is increasing due to applications like electronic article surveillance systems and induction heating cooking hobs. However, limited data is available on their possible health effects. The present study assessed behavioral and histopathological consequences of exposing mice to 7.5 kHz MF at 12 or 120 μT for 5 weeks. No effects were observed on body weight, spontaneous activity, motor coordination, level of anxiety or aggression. In the Morris swim task, mice in the 120 μT group showed less steep learning curve than the other groups, but did not differ from controls in their search bias in the probe test. The passive avoidance task indicated a clear impairment of memory over 48 h in the 120 μT group. No effects on astroglial activation or neurogenesis were observed in the hippocampus. The mRNA expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor did not change but expression of the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha mRNA was significantly increased in the 120 μT group. These findings suggest that 7.5 kHz MF exposure may lead to mild learning and memory impairment, possibly through an inflammatory reaction in the hippocampus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Body Weight
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • RNA, Messenger

Grants and funding

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant agreement no: 603794 – the GERONIMO project, 603794.