I love urban legends. Like the ostensible kidney harvesting where someone wakes up after a serious bender in a bathtub of icy water, sans a kidney. Or brain tumors resulting from cell phone use. As Rick and I both admit in this week's podcast, guess that makes us candidates for open craniotomy at some point in the future as we are definitely addicted. Does a study in this issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shed any light?
Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism took 47 healthy recruits from the community and placed two cells phones on their heads, one on the right ear and one on the left. (The study was actually undertaken at the Brookhaven National Laboratory!). This was done to avoid brain activation at the expectation of a signal if only one cell phone was present.
Two fifty minute sessions were undertaken with each participant. In one session both cell phones were off and PET scanning was used to assess brain activity. In the other session the right cell phone was activated by receiving a call but the sound was muted, while the left phone was inactive. PET scanning was also performed during this session.
What the study found was that brain activity most definitely increased in the area adjacent to the cell phone antenna, specifically the orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole. While these increases were modest they were statistically significant and bring us to the conclusion that electromagnetic signals do increase brain activity in regions adjacent to the device.
Hmmmm. That's what I think. If we measured brain metabolism in say, auditory cortex while listening to music or limbic areas while we're in the midst of an argument or the locus ceruleus just before we wake up in the morning, we would consider it problematic if we didn't see activity. The fact that geographically adjacent electromagnetic stimulation results in an increase in brain metabolism is unsurprising.
As I query Rick, so what? Is this study going to be used by opportunists to bemoan every technological advance since they put those men on the moon? As usual, Rick talks me off the ledge and places the study in its proper context: it incrementally moves us forward and suggests logical places for future study. Bravo Rick! In the meantime, I'm wondering about the effects of bluetooth devices on brain metabolism?
Other topics this week include assessing someone's ability to drive after they've had a stroke or cerebrovascular accident in this issue of Neurology, the dangers of cribs and other baby furniture in Pediatrics, and the benefits of life on the farm in NEJM. Until next week, y'all live well.