Researchers find cellphones may harm offspring, help people with mental illness

Yale, Dartmouth studies examine health impact of cellphone use

Yale School of Medicine researchers have found in studies using mice that exposure to radiation from cell phones during pregnancy can lead offspring to develop hyperactivity.

“This is the first experimental evidence that fetal exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cellular telephones does in fact affect adult behavior,” said senior author Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, in a statement. The research from Taylor and co-authors Geliang Gan and Xiao-Bing Gao has been published in the March 15 issue of Scientific Reports, a Nature publication.

The study involved exposing one set of pregnant mice to radiation from an active, but muted and silenced cellphone, while a control group was exposed to a deactivated phone. Those exposed to the activated phone were found to develop hyperactivity and have reduced memory as they grew up. Taylor pointed to the phone's impact on neuron development in the brain's prefrontal cortex.

“We have shown that behavioral problems in mice that resemble ADHD are caused by cell phone exposure in the womb,” said Taylor. “The rise in behavioral disorders in human children may be in part due to fetal cellular telephone irradiation exposure.”

The study was funded by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, and Environment and Human Health.

Separately, an assistant professor of psychiatry and colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School/the Thresholds-Dartmouth Research Center in Chicago, are using smartphone tools to assess and treat mental illness.

Dror Ben-Zeev and colleagues are using phones to gather information about patients symptoms and moods as well as using them to deliver interventions, such as reminders to take medication or exercise.

“We are using the technology that is already in your pocket to create a completely new medium for psychotherapeutic intervention,” says Ben-Zeev in a statement.  “You can have therapy with you and accessible to you whenever and wherever you have the need, potentially anywhere in the world.”

Ben-Zeev and colleagues recently conducted a survey of 1,600 peole in Chicago who are under treatment for mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. “We showed that 70 percent of the people had cellphones and used them for calling, texting, and for accessing the Internet,” he remarks. “It’s not quite up to the 94 percent of people in the U.S. overall but I think that these results are going to be very surprising to many who expect much less from people with serious mental illness.”

Ben-Zeev has published a series of papers with co-authors around the world to help spread word of the findings and the potential use of smartphones to help patients.

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