With the barrage of cell phone ads in the media offering free long distance or unlimited nights and weekends, it is no surprise that mobile phones are a convenient way for students to stay in touch with their friends and family at home.
However, according to a study published in June by researchers from Lund University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, the results suggest that with time, cell phone users may grow more susceptible to brain damage. In the experiment, rats were exposed to levels of microwave radiation similar to those that an average mobile phone user would come in contact with.
The rats were split into two groups, each containing eight rats. One group was subjected to the radiation, while the other was used as a control group. The researchers then waited 50 days before examining the brains of the animals.
“We found highly significant evidence for neuronal damage in the cortex, hippocampus and basal ganglia in the brains of the exposed rats,” the study states.
These areas of the brain are responsible for functions such as motor and higher learning skills, said Psychology Prof. Steve Maren, who participates in the University’s neuroscience program. The hippocampus in particular is responsible for the creation of new memories, and damage to the area can result in difficulty of storing new information, he added.
“Hippocampal damage could potentially cause memory loss. Patients who suffer (damage) might produce behavior similar to that of Alzheimer’s patients,” Maren said.
The basal ganglia, another area affected by the radiation areas, is involved in motor control, Maren said, and a person with damage to the area would exhibit symptoms parallel to those associated with Parkinson’s disease.
The study also stated that, “(the researchers) cannot exclude that after some decades of daily use, a whole generation of users may suffer negative effects, perhaps as early as in middle age.”
It is not unusual to see students walking to class while talking on their phones, and many students find that discounted long-distance offers from service providers are an easy alternative to calling from their dorm or home line.
“It is more convenient to make calls (that way). I don’t think I’ve ever used my dorm phone,” LSA freshman Brittany Vonbehren said.
In fact, the long distance rates for calls made from University Residence Halls reach as high as $0.07 per minute during peak hours of the day, and due to the need for an “authcode” to make long distance calls, can only be made from a student’s own dorm phone.
Researchers in the study recommended purchasing a headset as another safer alternative. Headsets can be purchased from cell phone retailers, with prices ranging anywhere from $15 up to $100, depending on the model and brand of the phone.