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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Can Cell Phones Increase Brain Power?


But before you decide to ditch the landline and go cellular in the hopes of improving your brainpower, Koivisto warns that you won't notice a difference. "The effects are so small ... that they have no practical implications. These effects can only be observed in laboratory conditions," he says.

Fitzsimmons agrees. "I don't think this is anything that is going to be used constructively," he says. "It is just one of those things that is interesting ... and shows that it is not always just a simple matter of saying something is bad or it's good, because at different levels you have quite different effects. And this is definitely low level."

Koivisto's work is only a small piece of the cell phone and health puzzle -- a puzzle for which no one seems to have the picture on the box as a guide.

Although many studies show that there are no adverse health effects associated with cell phone use, the FDA isn't ready to call them "absolutely safe" just yet. The agency's concern is that cell phones emit low levels of radiation while in use, and even smaller amounts when not in use. It is known that high levels of this radiation, which is the kind used in your microwave oven, can cause damage to tissue because it heats it up, but it's not known what low levels of the radiation does.

Last week, the FDA announced that it will collaborate with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association over the next three to five years to investigate mobile phone safety by recommending and funding research. The research would be conducted by third parties.

Vital Information:

  • There are some concerns about the health risks involved with using a cell phone, but new research shows that it may actually improve certain aspects of memory.
  • Researchers say the findings are interesting, but the improvements in memory were too small to have any practical application.
  • The FDA, in conjunction with a cell phone industry group, will be investigating phone safety over the next three to five years.
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