TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A one-hour cell phone conversation stimulates the areas of your brain closest to the phone's antenna, but experts say they still have no idea whether these effects pose any long-term health risk.
"We don't know whether this is detrimental or whether it could have some potential beneficial effects. We don't know one way or the other," said Dr. Nora Volkow, who is lead author of the study published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Studies need to be done to see if there are long-lasting consequences. It's an important question."
For the time being, the best bet is to use an ear piece or the speaker phone, "particularly in children and adolescents whose brains are much more vulnerable to insults of certain kinds," said Volkow, who is director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Or you could follow the example of kids and teenagers and use text messaging, so the phone is nowhere near your head.
"These solutions are so simple, trivial," Volkow noted.
There's been a lengthy scientific back-and-forth on whether cell phone use -- now practically ubiquitous across the world -- is harmful to your health, and specifically whether it can cause brain cancer, but no definitive answer has yet emerged.
For this study, 47 volunteers were brought into a lab at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, where they had cell phones positioned at both their left and right ears.
Researchers measured metabolism of glucose in the brain -- a measure of how hard the organ is working -- using positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Metabolism in the orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole regions of the brain, those closest to the antenna, was about 7 percent higher when the right phone was in the "on" position than when both phones were off.
The brain activity decreased with dis
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