Mobile Phone Use Can Improve Memory

The University of Bradford has conducted a study that reveals that mobile phone use can improve the short-term memory of men – but not women.

Dr Jim Smythe and Professor Brenda Costall of the University’’s School of Life Sciences carried out an experiment on both the long and short-term memory of people that were briefly exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from mobile telephones.

Thirty-three male and twenty-nine female students volunteered to be randomly assigned to one of three conditions in the experiment. The students were all right-handed, aged between 18 and 53 years, of good health with normal hearing and vision.

The findings following the completed study suggest that mobile phone use may actually enhance cognitive function (memory) – but only in male subjects and only in the short-term.

Dr Smythe and Professor Costall concluded: “These findings are unique as far as we are aware. There has not been a suggestion before that mobile-phone effects may be sex dependent.”

The experiment took place in two phases – the first testing the students’’ ability to learn a series of words and remember them for the short-term, and the second testing how well the students could remember the information a week later.

In the first phase each student was taken to a secluded room and had to follow a set of instructions given by a research assistant. They were then either given an inactive mobile phone, an active mobile phone or no phone at all. Those students with phones were unaware if they were active or not, and they were asked to hold it to their left ear whilst following the instructions given to them.

Each student was given three minutes to memorise as many words as possible from a set of twelve contained in the shape of a pyramid, and they then had to read aloud passages from the daily newspaper to prevent them from rehearsing the original twelve words. After twelve minutes the students were given a blank sheet of paper and another three minutes to re-draw the pyramid with the words positioned in the correct places. Mobile phone exposure for those students with phones lasted for the full 15 minutes.

The participants were tested for their ability to recall words correctly. Omissions or incorrect words were called “semantic” errors and incorrectly positioned words or blanks were called “spatial” errors.

The results collated showed differences depending on the gender of the subjects in that male students exposed to an active mobile phone made fewer spatial errors than those male students exposed to an inactive phone. The female students were largely unaffected by the experience.

Following this part of the experiment, the second phase invited the students to return to the same place a week later for another test – but without telling them that they would actually be asked to recall the same words and shape. All subjects performed equally well on this task.

Dr Smythe added: “The fact that mobile phones exposure influences brain function in any way could possibly mean that cumulative EMF exposure might well result in damage.”

For further information on the research findings, please contact Dr Jim Smythe on 01274 233361 or via email at j.w.smythe@bradford.ac.uk

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