Seventy-six male volunteers were studied in a crossover trial to assess the impact on the central system of electric currents such as might be induced by exposure to an intense power frequency electric field. Currents totalling 500 microamperes (50 Hz) were passed through electrodes attached to the head, upper arms, and feet, simulating exposure of and average man to a vertical electric field of about 36 kV/m. Exposure was continuous for a single day (5.5 hours) and the experiment was based on a double blind, counterbalanced, within subject design. A series of psychological tests examining self reports of both stress and arousal (mood checklist) and performance tests of memory, attention, and verbal skills were administered. Although the double blind conditions were compromised to some extent by reported sensations at electrode sites, the duration of these sensations was small in relation to the overall exposure or sham exposure time and did not interact with the effects apparently associated with exposure that were found. No significant difference between the exposed and sham-exposed groups was found on the first day, but on the second day the sham exposed group felt more aroused at the end of the day and their response times had improved more on the complex problems of a syntactic reasoning test. No exposure effects were apparent in self reports of stress or in performance in a semantic reasoning test, although both showed some influence of sensations. Interpretation of the exposure effects is complicated by their apparent restriction of the second test day, which may indicate some type of state dependent transfer phenomenon.
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