Non-thermal effects of EMF upon the mammalian brain: the Lund experience


Volume 27, Number 4, 493-500, DOI: 10.1007/s10669-007-9118-4

Non-thermal effects of EMF upon the mammalian brain: the Lund experience

Leif G. Salford, Henrietta Nittby, Arne Brun, Gustav Grafström, Jacob L. Eberhardt, Lars Malmgren andBertil R. R. Persson

From the issue entitled “Special Issue on Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields. Guest Editors: Marko Markov and Panos Kostarakis”


The environment in which biology exists has dramatically changed during the last decades. Life was formed during billions of years, exposed to, and shaped by the original physical forces such as gravitation, cosmic irradiation and the terrestrial magnetism. The existing organisms are created to function in harmony with these forces.

However, in the late 19th century mankind introduced the use of electricity and during the very last decades, microwaves of the modern communication society spread around the world. Today one third of the world’s population is owner of the microwave-producing mobile phones.

The question is: to what extent are living organisms affected by these ubiquitous radio frequency fields? Since 1988 our group has studied the effects upon the mammalian blood-brain barrier (BBB) by non-thermal radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). These have been revealed to cause significantly increased leakage of albumin through the BBB of exposed rats as compared to non-exposed animals—in a total series of about two thousand animals.

One remarkable observation is the fact that the lowest energy levels give rise to the most pronounced albumin leakage. If mobile communication, even at extremely low energy levels, causes the users’ own albumin to leak out through the blood-brain barrier (BBB), also other unwanted and toxic molecules in the blood, may leak into the brain tissue and concentrate in and damage the neurons and glial cells of the brain.

In later studies we have shown that a 2-h exposure to GSM 915 MHz at non-thermal levels, gives rise to significant neuronal damage, seen 28 and 50 days after the exposure. In our continued research, the non-thermal effects (histology, memory functions) of long-term exposure for 13 months are studied as well as the effects of short term GSM 1,800 MHz upon gene expression.

Most of our findings support that living organisms are affected by the non-thermal radio frequency fields. Studies from other laboratories in some cases find effects, while in other cases effects are not seen. Our conclusion is that all researchers involved in this field have the obligation to intensify this research in order to reduce, or avoid, the possible negative effects of the man made microwaves!

Keywords  Albumin - Blood-brain barrier - Mobile phones - Neurons - Radio frequency Electromagnetic fields – Rats

Distribution, cellular localization, and therapeutic potential of the tumor-associated antigen Ku70/80 in glioblastoma multiforme

Oscar Persson, Leif G. Salford, Johan Fransson, Bengt Widegren and Carl A. K. Borrebaeck, et al.

Journal of Neuro-Oncology, 2010, Volume 97, Number 2, Pages 207-215

Book Chapter

Microarray and Proteomic Analysis of Gliomas: Target Strategies

Bengt Widegren, Oscar Persson, Xiaolong Fan and Leif G. Salford

2009, Therapeutic Ribonucleic Acids in Brain Tumors, Pages 179-196

Glioma Stem Cells in the Context of Oncogenesis

Johan Bengzon, Elisabet Englund, Leif G. Salford and Xiaolong Fan

Cancer Drug Discovery and Development, 2009, Stem Cells and Cancer, Part 4, Pages 113-124

Journal Article

Exposure to radiation from global system for mobile communications at 1,800 MHz significantly changes gene expression in rat hippocampus and cortex

Henrietta Nittby, Bengt Widegren, Morten Krogh, Gustav Grafström and Henrik Berlin, et al.

The Environmentalist, 2008, Volume 28, Number 4, Pages 458-465


We have earlier shown that radio frequency electromagnetic fields can cause significant leakage of albumin through the blood–brain barrier of exposed rats as compared to non-exposed rats, and also significant neuronal damage in rat brains several weeks after a 2 h exposure to a mobile phone, at 915 MHz with a global system for mobile communications (GSM) frequency modulation, at whole-body specific absorption rate values (SAR) of 200, 20, 2, and 0.2 mW/kg. We have now studied whether 6 h of exposure to the radiation from a GSM mobile test phone at 1,800 MHz (at a whole-body SAR-value of 13 mW/kg, corresponding to a brain SAR-value of 30 mW/kg) has an effect upon the gene expression pattern in rat brain cortex and hippocampus—areas where we have observed albumin leakage from capillaries into neurons and neuronal damage. Microarray analysis of 31,099 rat genes, including splicing variants, was performed in cortex and hippocampus of 8 Fischer 344 rats, 4 animals exposed to global system for mobile communications electromagnetic fields for 6 h in an anechoic chamber, one rat at a time, and 4 controls kept as long in the same anechoic chamber without exposure, also in this case one rat at a time. Gene ontology analysis (using the gene ontology categories biological processes, molecular functions, and cell components) of the differentially expressed genes of the exposed animals versus the control group revealed the following highly significant altered gene categories in both cortex and hippocampus: extracellular region, signal transducer activity, intrinsic to membrane, and integral to membrane. The fact that most of these categories are connected with membrane functions may have a relation to our earlier observation of albumin transport through brain capillaries.

Journal Article

Brain tumour development in rats exposed to electromagnetic fields used in wireless cellular communication

Leif G. Salford, Arne Brun and Bertil R.R. Persson

Wireless Networks, 1997, Volume 3, Number 6, Pages 463-469

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