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May 20, 2014 02:05 PM EDT

Researchers To Investigate Mobile Phones Affect On Children's Brain Development


British researchers are launching a study to investigate whether mobile phones and other wireless gadgets affect children's brain development, Reuters reported.

The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones will focus on cognitive functions such as memory and attention. These functions continue to develop into in their teen years - - around the age when they start to own and use personal phones, Reuters reported.

To date most scientific research involving radio waves from mobile phones and health has focused on adults and the potential risk for brain cancers. Scientist's uncertainty as to whether children's developing brains may be more vulnerable than adults' brains prompted the new research project.

"Scientific evidence available to date is reassuring and shows no association between exposure to radiofrequency waves from mobile phone use and brain cancer in adults in the short term - i.e. less than 10 years of use," Paul Elliott,  co-leader of the research and director of the Center for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, told Reuters. "But the evidence available regarding long term heavy use and children's use is limited and less clear."

For the study, researchers aim to recruit  nearly 2,500 11 to 12 year-old school children and follow their cognitive development over two years whilst collecting data on how often and for how long they use mobile or smart phones and other wireless devices.

Study participants and their parents will be given questionnaires about the children's use of mobile devices, well-being and lifestyle. The children will also undertake classroom-based computerized tests of the cognitive abilities behind functions like memory and attention.

"Cognition is essentially how we think, how we make decisions, and how we process and recall information," Mireille Toledano, the study's principal investigator, told Reuters. "It is linked to intelligence and educational achievement and forms the building blocks of the innovative and creative potential of every individual and therefore society as a whole."

According to Reuters, current British health policy guidelines say children under 16 should be encouraged to use mobile phones for essential purposes only, and where possible use a hands-free kit or text.

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