Smartphones are a considerable part of daily life these days. And while they have led to revolutions in terms of convenience, communication, entertainment, and others, studies have, time and time again, proven that they have adverse effects on their users. One particular research found that constant exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by cell phones and other communication technologies can impair the memory of young individuals.
The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives and titled HERMES (Health Effects Related to Mobile phone usE in adolescentS), followed 700 participants aged 12 to 17 for one year. All of these young people were public school students in both urban and rural regions in Switzerland.
The study investigated the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF and memory performance. The researchers asked the participants to fill out questionnaires that inquired about their cell phone usage, as well as other factors related to their mental and physical well-being. Researchers also collected the young people’s cell phone user data to maximize objectivity. This step made the research the first of its kind to examine the cumulative dose of RF-EMF in adolescents.
To gauge any changes in the participants’ mental performance, the researchers had them take a series of computerized cognitive tests. Here, they found that cell phone use and the resulting RF-EMF exposure resulted in “a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents.”
Figural memory is a right-brain function that pertains to the ability of the brain to remember images. It was found that impairments in figural memory correlated with the amount of exposure to RF-EMF. Moreover, the impairment was more pronounced in individuals who used their phones on the right side of their head.
These findings are merely a confirmation of earlier conclusions regarding the negative impact of cell phone use on the health of users. Some studies observed that using phone shortly before bedtime caused alterations in sleep quality, potentially causing an adverse effect on the ability to perform abstract tasks during waking hours.
Interestingly, using phones for sending texts, playing games, browsing the internet, or interacting through social media was found to cause very minimal exposure to RF-EMF and so was linked to little impact on memory.
However, it’s not just exposure to RF-EMF that negatively affects memory. A study in Frontiers in Psychology talked about the so-called “Google Effect.” This occurs when people become less efficient at remembering newly learned information when they are told that a computer stores the data for them.
Other studies have shown that heavy users of smartphones exhibit “less analytical” cognitive styles, as proven by poor performance in cognitive tests. These findings suggest that the reliance on smartphones as a source of readily available information makes people less likely to commit to information they learn.
RF-EMF is emitted not just by smartphones, but also by laptops, power lines, and WiFi networks. The danger posed by this type of radiation goes beyond its negative effects on memory – it is also known to cause a wide variety of health problems.
To note, it is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Class B “possible carcinogen.” Notorious cancer-causing chemicals like DDT and lead occupy this category. Human studies have confirmed the link between RF-EMF and the increased risk of developing cancer.
RF-EMF is also linked to infertility, heart palpitations, insomnia, headache, and brain fog. In some people, the radiation has been known to cause increased resistance to certain antibiotics.
Experts recommend using hands-free headsets or speakerphone to direct exposure to RF-EMF. This is especially the case when the network connection is weak, as the phone is forced to function at full power. Sending texts may also be more preferable than making calls. Whenever possible, keep the phone away from the body.
Learn how technology affects the brain at Brain.news.