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See Inside May / June 2010

Could Cell Phone Radiation Protect Memory?

Exposure to waves like those from phones prevented Alzheimer’s disease in mice



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After spending years fighting claims that cell phone use can cause brain tumors, industry reps may be getting some welcome news. A new study suggests cell phone radiation may actually have a beneficial biological effect—two hours of exposure a day staved off Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Scientists at the University of South Florida studied mice that are genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s and its accompanying memory problems. Based on previous research, the researchers hypothesized that radiation from phones would accelerate progression of the disease be­cause other types of radiation cause free radical damage. The team used an antenna to expose some of the mice to electromagnetic waves that approximated two hours of daily cell phone use. To the scientists’ surprise, the mice that were dosed with cell phone radiation did not suffer from memory impairments as they aged—unlike their radiation-free counterparts. The mice exposed to phone waves retained their youthful ability to navigate a once familiar maze after time spent in different mazes.

The researchers hypo­thesize that the radiation prevented the buildup of amyloid plaques, the sticky protein aggregates that are found in Alzheimer’s brains.They suggest that their work may eventually lead to a treatment that can halt the disease process.

Studies in mice are pre­liminary, of course: many ave­nues of treatment that seem promising in rodents fail to pan out in humans. But the new paper raises questions about the cell phone industry’s claim that its products’ emissions are too weak to have any biological effects. Although the link to brain tumors remains inconclusive, the new work suggests cell phones may indeed be messing with our minds.

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