Smartphone radiation could be destroying the memory performance of a new generation of adolescents, a troubling new study has warned.
Cumulative exposure to mobile devices over the course of a year negatively affects the figural memory of adolescents, scientists found.
Figural memory is mainly located in the right hemisphere of the brain and refers to our ability to make sense of objects including images, patterns and shapes.
Youngsters who hold their phone next to their right ear are the most affected by exposure to radiation.
However, sending text messages, playing mobile games, and browsing the internet may also have negative effects, albeit not as pronounced, the study showed.
Researchers from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) studied nearly 700 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 in Switzerland.
They looked at the link between their daily exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) and their memory performance.
The effects of RF-EMF were more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head, the study revealed.
‘This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations’, said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.
Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending texts, playing games or browsing the Internet will also cause marginal RF-EMF exposure.
However, these were not associated with the negative development of memory.
Dr Röösli emphasised that further research is needed to rule out the influence of other factors.
‘For instance, the study results could have been affected by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participant’s cognitive and behavioural state.’
The potential effect of RF-EMF exposure to the brain is a relatively new field of scientific inquiry, according to the paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
‘It is not yet clear how RF-EMF could potentially affect brain processes or how relevant our findings are in the long-term’, said Dr Röösli.
‘Potential risks to the brain can be minimised by using headphones or the loud speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power.’
In 2016 it was revealed that RF-EMF can cause a pain response in amputees.
Researchers claimed to have scientific evidence to support the anecdotal reports made by people with amputated limbs.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE , found that in rats with an amputation-like injury the animals showed clear evidence of pain in the presence of the signals.
Dr Mario Romero-Ortega, senior author of the study and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said: ‘Our study provides evidence, for the first time, that subjects exposed to cellphone towers at low, regular levels can actually perceive pain.’
‘Our study also points to a specific nerve pathway that may contribute to our main finding.’
The rats were exposed to EMF signals equivalent to standing near a mobile phone tower almost 131ft (40 metres) away.
Animals received exposure for ten minutes, once a week for eight weeks.
They found that after four weeks, 88 per cent of rats with the nerve injury showed a definite pain response to the signal.
‘Many believe that a neuroma has to be present in order to evoke pain. Our model found that electromagnetic fields evoked pain that is perceived before neuroma formation; subjects felt pain almost immediately,’ explained Dr Romero-Ortega.
‘My hope is that this study will highlight the importance of developing clinical options to prevent neuromas, instead of the current partially effective surgery alternatives for neuroma resection to treat pain’, he said.