Time to Start Using Your Earbuds, as in Always

It's official, pressing your cell phone to your ear can at least temporarily alter your brain. That’s the disturbing finding of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, who scanned the brains of 47 volunteers while they had cell phones attached to each side of their heads.

During a 50-minute call, activity in the brain’s neurons closest to the antenna increased by 7 percent—a significant amount. “We have no idea what this means yet or how it works,” study author Nora Volkow tells Wired, “but this is the first reliable study showing that the brain is activated by exposure to cell phone radio frequencies.” Previous studies have found contradictory evidence about whether mobile-phone radiation can lead to a higher incidence of brain cancer; many researchers have insisted there is no way the weak radiation emitted by the phones could affect biological tissue. But the NIH study shows that there is, in fact, an interaction, raising the question: Could the neurological stimulation shown by the scans be causing dangerous inflammation and brain-cell damage over time?

“You don’t have to wait around on us for the answers,” Volkow says. She strongly recommends using earbuds, headsets or a speakerphone to keep cell phones away from your head.