EMF Health-effects Research

Radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure in humans: Estimation of SAR distribution in the brain, effects on sleep and heart rate.

Huber R, Schuderer J, Graf T, Jutz K, Borbely AA, Kuster N, Achermann P

Bioelectromagnetics 24(4):262-276, 2003

In two previous studies we demonstrated that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) similar to those emitted by digital radiotelephone handsets affect brain physiology of healthy young subjects exposed to RF EMF (900 MHz; spatial peak specific absorption rate [SAR] 1 W/kg) either during sleep or during the waking period preceding sleep.

In the first experiment, subjects were exposed intermittently during an 8 h nighttime sleep episode and in the second experiment, unilaterally for 30 min prior to a 3 h daytime sleep episode. Here we report an extended analysis of the two studies as well as the detailed dosimetry of the brain areas, including the assessment of the exposure variability and uncertainties. The latter enabled a more in depth analysis and discussion of the findings.

Compared to the control condition with sham exposure, spectral power of the non-rapid eye movement sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) was initially increased in the 9-14 Hz range in both experiments. No topographical differences with respect to the effect of RF EMF exposure were observed in the two experiments. Even unilateral exposure during waking induced a similar effect in both hemispheres.

Exposure during sleep reduced waking after sleep onset and affected heart rate variability. Exposure prior to sleep reduced heart rate during waking and stage 1 sleep. The lack of asymmetries in the effects on sleep EEG, independent of bi- or unilateral exposure of the cortex, may indicate involvement of subcortical bilateral projections to the cortex in the generation of brain function changes, especially since the exposure of the thalamus was similar in both experiments (approx. 0.1 W/kg).

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