Memory problems are being seen in adolescents after they've been using a cell phone for just a year, say researchers from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from the phones affect a non-verbal type of memory known as figural, which is located more on the right-side of the brain.
Right-handed adolescents who frequently use the phones to make calls are the most likely to be affected, while those who just use the devices for texting and posting on social media suffer only a 'marginal' deterioration of memory.
The researchers studied a group of 700 adolescents, aged between 12 and 17 years, and measured their memory performance and cell phone usage, which they worked out from data supplied by phone operators.
The research suggests "that indeed RF-EMF (radiofrequency electromagnetic field) absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations (of figural memory performance)", said Martin Roosil, the lead researcher of the Hermes (Health Effects Related to Mobile Phone Use) study group.
The conclusion confirms the findings of a larger research study in 2015, which involved around 1400 adolescents, that also thought there was a connection between EMFs and memory problems.
Although we're exposed to much higher levels of EMFs in our environment these days—such as from mobile phone masts and wi-fi—it's the radiation from cell phones that can have the most direct impact, especially on a developing brain, the researchers say.
The study is peer-reviewed, which means its methods and workings have been checked by independent researchers before it has been accepted for publication.
(Source: Scientific Reports, 2018; 8: doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29393-8)