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Medical/biological Study (experimental study)

Effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by GSM 900 and WCDMA mobile phones on cognitive function in young male subjects. med./biol.

By: Sauter C, Dorn H, Bahr A, Hansen ML, Peter A, Bajbouj M, Danker-Hopfe H
Published in: Bioelectromagnetics 2011; 32 (3): 179 - 190 ( open external web page PubMed Entry , open external web page Journal web site )

Aim of study (according to author)
To study possible effects of long-term electromagnetic field exposure to mobile phone handset-like signals (GSM and W-CDMA) on attention and working memory in 30 healthy male subjects (18-30 years old).
Background/further details:
The subjects were tested on nine study days (separated by two week intervals) in which they were exposed to three exposure conditions (sham exposure, GSM and W-CDMA) in a randomly assigned and balanced order. All tests were presented twice (morning and afternoon) on each study day within a fixed timeframe.


General category: mobile communication system, mobile phone, GSM, UMTS, W-CDMA

Field characteristicsParameters
field 1: 900 MHz
exposure duration: 3 days (à 7 h 15 minutes), separated by at least two week intervals

power: 1 W (input power)
SAR: 7.82 W/kg (10 g)
field 2: 1966 MHz
exposure duration: 3 days (à 7 h 15 minutes), separated by 2-week intervals and not necessarily consecutive

power: 1 W (input power)
SAR: 10.98 W/kg (10 g)

FIELD View further expo parameters

Exposed system:
partial body exposure: head

Endpoint/Measurement parameters/Methodology

investigation on living organism
investigated organ system: brain/CNS

time of investigation: before, during and after exposure

Main outcome of study (according to author)
Univariate comparison (t-test or Wilcoxon test) revealed significant changes when subjects were exposed to GSM exposure (higher number of correct reactions and shorter reaction time in the morning trial) compared to sham exposure, only in the vigilance test. In the W-CDMA exposure condition, one parameter in the vigilance (higher number of correct reactions) and one in the test on divided attention (slower reaction time in the morning session) were altered compared to sham exposure. Performance in the selective attention test and the n-back task was not affected by GSM or W-CDMA exposure. Time-of-day effects were evident for the tests on divided and selective attention, as well as for working memory.
After correction for multiple testing (Bonferroni inequality), only time-of-day effects remained significant in two tests, resulting in faster reactions in the afternoon trials.
The authors conclude, that the data do not provide any evidence of an electromagnetic field effect on human cognition, but they underline the necessity to control the paramter time-of-day.

(Study character: medical/biological study, experimental study, full/main study, double-blind study, cross-over study)

Study funded by

  • Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS; Federal Office for Radiation Protection), Salzgitter, Germany
  • Deutsches Mobilfunk Forschungsprogramm (DMF; German Mobile Phone Research Programme) at Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)

Related articles i
Glossary: 3G, attention, behavioral, biological, Bonferroni, brain, CNS, cognition, cross-over study, double-blind study, electromagnetic field, endpoint, evident, exposed, exposure, full/main study, GSM, healthy, human, mobile communication, mobile phone, n-back task, organism, partial body exposure, power, randomly, reaction time, SAR, session, sham exposure, significant, subjects, t-test, UMTS, vigilance, W-CDMA, Wilcoxon test, working memory
Exposure: mobile communication system, mobile phone, GSM, UMTS, W-CDMA

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