Researchers to study whether mobile phones affect teenage brains

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 4:19am

British researchers are launching the world's largest study to investigate whether using mobile phones and other wireless gadgets might affect children's brain development.

The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones, or SCAMP, project will focus on cognitive functions such as memory and attention, which continue to develop into adolescence - just the age when teenagers start to own and use personal phones.

While there is no convincing evidence that radio waves from mobile phones affect health, to date most scientific research has focused on adults and the potential risk of brain cancers.

Because of that, scientists are uncertain as to whether children's developing brains may be more vulnerable than adults' brains partly because their nervous systems are still developing, and also because they are likely to have a higher cumulative exposure over their lifetimes.

"Scientific evidence available to date is reassuring and shows no association between exposure to radiofrequency waves from mobile phone use and brain cancer in adults in the short term - less than 10 years of use," said Paul Elliott, director of the Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, who will co-lead the research.

"But evidence regarding long-term heavy use and children's use is limited and less clear."

Elliott and the study's principal investigator, Mireille Toledano, aim to recruit around 2,500 11- to 12-year-old school children and follow their cognitive development over two years while collecting data on how often, for what, and for how long they use mobile or smart phones and other wireless devices.

Parents and pupils will answer questions about the children's use of mobile devices and wireless technologies, well-being and lifestyle. Pupils will also undertake classroom-based computerised tests of the cognitive abilities behind functions like memory and attention.

The World Health Organisation says many studies have been performed over the past two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk, with no adverse health effects being established.