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Use of mobile phones and changes in cognitive function in adolescents
  1. S Thomas1,2,
  2. G Benke2,3,
  3. C Dimitriadis2,3,
  4. I Inyang2,3,
  5. M R Sim2,3,
  6. R Wolfe2,
  7. R J Croft3,4,
  8. M J Abramson2,3
  1. 1Unit for Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology and NetTeaching, Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Hospital, Munich, Germany
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Wolloongong, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael J Abramson, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia; michael.abramson{at}monash.edu

Abstract

Background Several studies have investigated the impact of mobile phone exposure on cognitive function in adults. However, children and adolescents are of special interest due to their developing nervous systems.

Methods Data were derived from the Australian Mobile Radiofrequency Phone Exposed Users' Study (MoRPhEUS) which comprised a baseline examination of year 7 students during 2005/2006 and a 1-year follow-up. Sociodemographic and exposure data were collected with a questionnaire. Cognitive functions were assessed with a computerised test battery and the Stroop Color-Word test.

Results 236 students participated in both examinations. The proportion of mobile phone owners and the number of voice calls and short message services (SMS) per week increased from baseline to follow-up. Participants with more voice calls and SMS at baseline showed less reductions in response times over the 1-year period in various computerised tasks. Furthermore, those with increased voice calls and SMS exposure over the 1-year period showed changes in response time in a simple reaction and a working memory task. No associations were seen between mobile phone exposure and the Stroop test.

Conclusions We have observed that some changes in cognitive function, particularly in response time rather than accuracy, occurred with a latency period of 1 year and that some changes were associated with increased exposure. However, the increased exposure was mainly applied to those who had fewer voice calls and SMS at baseline, suggesting that these changes over time may relate to statistical regression to the mean, and not be the effect of mobile phone exposure.

  • Mobile phone
  • cognitive functions
  • adolescents
  • Stroop
  • CogHealth™
  • epidemiology
  • mental health
  • longitudinal studies
  • electromagnetic fields

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Footnotes

  • Funding The study and Geza Benke were supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia.

  • Competing interests Michael Abramson holds small parcels of shares in Telstra and SingTel which both operate mobile telephone networks in Australia. Christina Dimitriadis holds a small parcel of Telstra shares. Geza Benke, Imo Inyang and Silke Thomas have no conflicts of interest to declare. Rodney Croft has received funds to conduct research from both the government and the mobile telecommunications industry.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Monash University Standing Committee on Ethics in Research Involving Humans.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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