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Does mobile phone use impact brain development of children? Huge study launched in the UK

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British researchers say they will launch a comprehensive study to see if cellphones and other wireless devices are affecting the mental development of children.

The SCAMP study -- Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones -- will track 2,500 school students, ages 11 to 12, focusing on their mobile phone usage patterns including the amount of time spent on them.

After two years their mental functions, including attention and memory, will be assessed.

There have been suggestions, so far unsubstantiated, that cellphone use increases the risk of brain cancer. Although studies to date have found no such link, most of those investigations focused on adult cellphone users.

The SCAMP study, commissioned by Britain Department of Health, comes as mobile phone use among British children continues to increase, with an estimated 70 percent of children ages 11 and 12 having a device.

That figure reaches 90 percent at age 14.

The 11 to 12 age group for the study was selected because it's the age when most British children are given their first mobile phone, researchers said.

Medical researcher Dr. Mireille Toledano of Imperial College will lead the study.

"As mobile phones are a new and widespread technology central to our lives, carrying out the SCAMP study is important in order to provide the evidence base with which to inform policy and through which parents and their children can make informed life choices," she says.

A concern is that since the nervous system of children is still developing, there could be greater risks from cellphone use than adults face.

In addition, the researchers say, today's children will be exposed to cellphones their entire lives, much long than any of today's adults have been.

More than 160 schools in the greater London area have been invited to participate in this study.

"Taking part in SCAMP is a fantastic opportunity for schools to bring 'live' science into their classrooms, show children how we conduct health research and, above all, for schools, pupils and parents to make a real contribution to the health of current and future generations," Toledano said.

Studies focusing on the effects of cellphones on adolescents and children have been ranked by the World Health Organization as a "highest priority research need."

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