Rats exposed to cell phone microwaves suffer long-term memory loss, according to new study by University of Washington researcher

Microwaves similar to those emitted by cell phones may affect long-term memory, according to a new study by a University of Washington researcher.

Henry Lai, a research professor in the UW's bioengineering department, has linked diminished long-term memory and navigating skills in rats with exposure to microwaves like those from cellular telephones.

According to Lai, this is the first study to link exposure to the radio waves to long-term memory function.

"Studies before this one have focused more on short-term memory," he said. "In this study, the long-term memory of microwave-exposed rats appears to have been affected."

Lai's findings are scheduled to be published in the January issue of the journal Bioelectromagnetics.

In the study, Lai placed rats in a large tank of water and trained them to swim to a submerged platform. Powdered milk, mixed into the water, ensured that the rats couldn't see the platform and had to memorize the way to it. The rats had one minute to find the platform. If they still hadn't found the platform by then, they were picked up and set on it. The animals were then reintroduced into the pool from a different location to repeat the process. Each rat was allowed four attempts to locate the platform during each of the six training sessions the animals received. A total of 100 rats went through the process.

The repetition allowed the rats to store the task of locating the ramp in their long-term memories, according to Lai. Long-term memory deals with items that have been learned or recalled and stored in the brain, he explained, as opposed to short-term memory, which has to do with tasks one has just performed or information one has just looked at.

Before each training session, rats from one group were exposed for one hour to pulsed microwaves, radiation similar to that emitted by cellular telephones. Lai noted that the learning process itself appeared to have been affected by the exposure. A c

Contact: Rob Harrill
University of Washington

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