Talking on a cell phone may actually help to protect against and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study by researchers at the University of South Florida.
The study involved exposing mice over long periods of time to electromagnetic waves associated with cell phone use.
"It surprised us to find that cell phone exposure, begun in early adulthood, protects the memory of mice otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms," said lead author Gary Arendash, PhD, Research Professor at the Florida ADRC.
"It was even more astonishing that the electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones actually reversed memory impairment in old Alzheimer’s mice."
The researchers showed that exposing old Alzheimer’s mice to electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones erased brain deposits of the harmful protein beta-amyloid, in addition to preventing the protein’s build-up in younger Alzheimer’s mice. The sticky brain plaques formed by the abnormal accumulation of beta amyloid are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Most treatments against Alzheimer’s try to target beta-amyloid.
The study involved 96, most of which were genetically altered to develop problems mimicking Alzheimer’s disease as they aged. The mouse cages were arranged around a centrally-located antenna generating the cell phone signal.
Each animal was housed the same distance from the antenna and exposed to electromagnetic waves typically emitted by a cell phone pressed up against a human head.
If cell phone exposure was started when the genetically-programmed mice were young adults — before signs of memory impairment were apparent — their cognitive ability was protected. In fact, the Alzheimer’s mice performed as well on tests measuring memory and thinking skills as aged mice without dementia. If older Alzheimer’s mice already exhibiting memory problems were exposed to the electromagnetic waves, their memory impairment disappeared.
"It will take some time to determine the exact mechanisms involved in these beneficial memory effects," Arendash said.
"One thing is clear, however – the cognitive benefits of long-term electromagnetic exposure are real, because we saw them in both protection- and treatment-based experiments involving Alzheimer’s mice, as well as in normal mice."