NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Holding a cell phone up to your head affects brain activity, according to a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but its effect on your overall health still remains to be seen.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that 50 minutes of cell phone use was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism – a  marker of brain activity – in the region closest to the antenna.

“Even though the radio frequencies that are emitted from current cell phone technologies are very weak they are able to activate the human brain to have an effect,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and lead author of the study, explained in a press release.

Researchers took PET scans, which map activity in the brain, of 47 participants over the course of year for the study. Participants were split into two groups and tested twice, once with a cell phone activated or “on” for 50 minutes on the right side of the head and once with a cell phone on each side of the head, deactivated or “off” for the same amount of time.  

Researchers ultimately discovered that while whole-brain metabolism did not differ between the on and off conditions, metabolism in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole, the regions nearest the antenna, were approximately 7% higher when a cell phone was on than when it was off.

Of course, in line with many previous studies that have established a connection between cell phones and brain activity, researchers stopped short of definitively saying whether or not the cell phone’s effect on the brain is actually bad for you.

“Concern has been raised by the possibility that RF-EMFs emitted by cell phones may induce brain cancer,” researchers wrote in the full report. “Results of this study provide evidence that acute cell phone exposure affects brain metabolic activity. However, these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cell phone use.”

In other words, you may have to wait for an official clinical diagnosis. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the National Cancer Institute are currently awaiting the results of the International Cohort Study of Mobile Use and Health, launched in April 2010,which will monitor 250,000 cell phone users 18 or older for the next 20 to 30 years.  

Can’t wait until 2040 to find out if your cell phone causes cancer? Check out MainStreet’s examination of the real risks of cellphone radiation. In the meantime, if you want to see which phones have the highest and lowest radiation, check out MainStreet’s ranking!

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