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Mobile Phone Memory Tests To Be Carried Out
The Guardian
Journalist: Polly Curtis
February 15, 2002

Researchers at the University of Essex have been awarded 200,000 to investigate whether mobile phone use improves memory and attention performance.

Whereas successive research has questioned the link between mobile phone use and various brain cancers, research into potential benefits of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones has not been as extensive.

Dr Riccardo Russo, heading the research team from the psychology and electronic systems engineering departments, said: "There has been much research conducted into the effects of exposure to mobile phones. But there is a scarcity of studies on the effects on memory and attention.

"The few studies conducted seem to suggest that, if anything, while people are 'under the influence' of mobile phones, they tend to perform slightly better in attention and memory tests.

"Our research aims to overcome the possible limitations of previous studies by broadening the sample groups to come up with some more conclusive answers."

There are 44m mobile phones in circulation amongst today's UK population of 55m, but the health implications of using them remain unclear.

In January last year, a team at the University of Essen in Germany concluded that people who regularly use a mobile phone were three times more likely to develop cancer of the eye.

But such research has often been inconsistent and conflicting. A study of 420,000 Danish mobile phone users by the Danish Cancer Society, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this year, found there is no correlation between phone use and brain or nervous system cancers.

Research into the effects of mobile phone use on brain functioning has been as inconclusive. A study at Bristol University found reaction times were faster among mobile phone users. But a Swedish study last year suggested that regular use of mobile phones could lead to fatigue, headaches and skin irritation.

The grant has been awarded by the Department of Health, via the Link Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, established following the publication, in May 2000, of The Stewart Report, produced by an independent group.

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