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A meta-analysis for neurobehavioural effects due to electromagnetic field exposure emitted by GSM mobile phones
  1. A Barth1,
  2. R Winker2,
  3. E Ponocny-Seliger3,
  4. W Mayrhofer4,
  5. I Ponocny3,
  6. C Sauter5,
  7. N Vana6
  1. 1
    Institute of Management Science, Division Ergonomics and Organization, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  2. 2
    Division of Occupational Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  3. 3
    Empirical Research & Statistical Consulting, Vienna, Austria
  4. 4
    Fraunhofer Project Group for Production- and Logistics Management in Vienna (Fraunhofer PPL), Vienna, Austria
  5. 5
    Department of Neurology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  6. 6
    Atomic Institute of the Austrian Universities, Vienna, Austria
  1. Dr A Barth, Institute of Management Science, Division Ergonomics and Organization, Vienna University of Technology, Theresianumgasse 27, A-1040 Vienna, Austria; barth{at}


Background and objective: Numerous studies have investigated the potential effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by GSM mobile phones (∼900 MHz to ∼1800 MHz) on cognitive functioning, but results have been equivocal. In order to try and clarify this issue, the current study carried out a meta-analysis on 19 experimental studies.

Design: Meta-analysis.

Methods: Nineteen studies were taken into consideration. Ten of them were included in the meta-analysis as they fulfilled several minimum requirements; for example, single-blind or double-blind experimental study design and documentation of means and standard deviation of the dependent variables. The meta-analysis compared exposed with non-exposed subjects assuming that there is a common population effect so that one single effect size could be calculated. When homogeneity for single effect sizes was not given, an own population effect for each study and a distribution of population effects was assumed.

Results: Attention measured by the subtraction task seems to be affected in regard to decreased reaction time. Working memory measured by the N-back test seems to be affected too: under condition 0-back target response time is lower under exposure, while under condition 2-back target response time increases. The number of errors under condition 2-back non-targets appears to be higher under exposure.

Conclusion: Results of the meta-analysis suggest that EMFs may have a small impact on human attention and working memory.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.