Seminar - Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields and Brain Physiology

5 March 2013

Full title: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields and brain physiology: effects on sleep and the electroencephalogram

Presenter:Dr Sarah Loughran, University of Wollongong and Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland

Presentation summary

The steady increase of mobile phone usage has led to increased concern about potential adverse health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF), such as those emitted by mobile phones, at intensities below the existing safety limits. Due to this widespread use and concern, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the possible effects of mobile phone-related emissions on human health, with a particular focus on potential effects on brain activity. Indeed, accumulating evidence suggests that pulse-modulated RF EMF may alter brain physiology. Exposure-related increases in alpha power during waking and the spindle frequency range during sleep have now been consistently shown. Additionally, a number of studies have indicated that pulse modulation of the RF EMF signal may be crucial to induce these changes in brain activity, that the effects may be dose-dependent, and particularly in regards to sleep, that the effects on the EEG outlast exposure.

Despite the established effect of RF EMF exposure on the EEG, the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of this effect remain unknown. Therefore, to further understand the potential causal association between RF EMF exposure and brain function and to help draw conclusions about possible health consequences of RF EMF, research addressing the mechanisms and functional significance of these observed effects is a priority. Based on the state of knowledge from previous research, this talk will discuss current and future research aimed at further understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying this exposure-induced effect on brain activity, while also exploring the potential sensitivity of children, whose brains are still undergoing maturation, to such exposures.

About the speaker

Dr Loughran completed a PhD in cognitive neuroscience/psychophysiology at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne under the guidance of Professor Rodney Croft, investigating the effects of electromagnetic fields on sleep, the EEG, and melatonin. Sarah subsequently spent 5 years as a postdoctoral fellow continuing this research at one of the leading international sleep laboratories (Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Switzerland) under the guidance of Professor Peter Achermann. While there she also expanded her expertise and began research in other sleep-related areas, particularly looking at sleep-wake behavior and the EEG in vegetative state and minimal conscious patients. She is now about to begin a senior research position focusing on electromagnetic health research at the University of Wollongong. She is a recognised leader in Bioelectromagnetics research, evidenced by her role as an invited member of the current World Health Organisation's RF Environmental Health Criterion evaluation committee as well as her recent appointment as an invited member of the scientific expert group at the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

She has won several awards for her work and presentations, including the Young Scientist Award from the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) General Assembly in 2008 and elected as an experienced research fellow in the Marie Curie training in Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine program. Her contribution to the field has also been recognised by numerous invitations to present her work, including presentations at Oxford University, the German Aerospace Center, the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, and a plenary seminar at the Bioelectromagnetics annual conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Hosted by Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

Time: 8.45am

Location: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Theatre 1

Contact: Andrew Vakulin

Email: 263e2e170c03695d535f2f07000636272a4b343d32491c4b001e2227