In an effort to find a definite answer on how mobile phones can really affect the brain, British scientists have launched Tuesday what will be the largest study on the effects of mobile phones on young users' developing brains.
The study, which is commissioned by UK's Department of Health under the Research Initiative on Health and Mobile Telecommunications (RIHMT) program and is funded by telecommunications companies and the government, will involve about 2,500 children between 11 and 12 years old to determine the impact of mobile phone use on the cognitive skills of young users.
For the Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones, or SCAMP, the age group was selected because about 70 percent of kids between 11 and 12 years of age already use mobile phones. By age 14, about 90 percent of the kids own a mobile phone.
Experts will assess the thinking skills, attention and memory of the participants, who will be recruited from over 160 schools in outer London, and will evaluate them again come 2017. The researchers also hope to access data of the participants' level of mobile phone use as long as the participants and their parents give consent.
"This study has two particularly valuable aspects: it attempts to estimate the children's exposure to radio frequency fields as precisely as possible, and it uses a carefully-designed suite of tests to measure many of the key cognitive functions that are developing during adolescence," Patrick Haggard, from the University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and chairman of the study's steering committee, said.
Study investigator Mireille Toledano, from the Imperial College London, said that the study is crucial as it could provide the evidence needed for policy making and basis that could help parents and their children make informed choices.
Despite fears that exposure to radio frequency from mobile phones can have a negative effect on developing brains, no concrete evidence has yet been produced that would establish mobile phone use as harmful to the brain. The UK health guidance, however, adopted precautionary measures and advises that children 16 years old and below should only use mobile phones when necessary and only for a short period of time.
Whether or not the use of mobile phones can have an effect on the brain remains to be a subject of debate among health and technology experts. Earlier this year, renowned oncologist and Pulitzer Prize awardee Siddhartha Mukherjee discredited claims that mobile phones can cause cancer while a newly study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine this month suggests that people who tend to use their phones longer and more frequently up their risks of developing brain cancer.