Title ImageMTHR - Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research


Project Title:
Detection of Effects of Microwave Radiation on The Electrical Activity of The Brain

Start Date:
July 2003

Expected Date of Completion:
December 2004


Research Team:

Principal Investigator:

Dr Stuart Butler

Contact Details:

Burden Neurological Institute

Project Team:

Professor Alan Preece


Professor Alan Preece and his colleagues have been conducting research into the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation for many years and they were the first to report an effect of mobile phone radiation on mental activity. Dr Stuart Butler is a neurophysiologist who specialises in recording the electrical activity of the brain for the investigation of normal cerebral function and the diagnosis of neurological disorders.


We were the first to report an effect of radiation from mobile phones on human behaviour: reaction time was speeded up in the performance of a task that depended on parts of the brain closest to the aerial. A number of studies have since confirmed this finding and reported other beneficial effects including improved memory and attention. These phenomena are unexpected. The only known effect of microwave radiation on the brain is to raise its temperature and the emissions from mobile phones are restricted to a level that has a negligible effect on brain temperature. This study is designed to find out what microwave radiation is doing to the brain to cause the observed effects on behaviour.

The electrical activity of the brain will be recorded (from electrodes on the scalp) while volunteer subjects experience visual and auditory stimuli and undertake a number of mental tasks. At the same time they will be exposed to transmissions from a TETRA handset. TETRA is the new mobile telecommunication system for the public services which, like GSM mobile phones, relies on microwave radiation. The recordings should reveal any changes in the way the brain processes sensory inputs or in the electrophysiological activity underlying cognitive processes. In addition, the study will look at whether bursts of microwave radiation alter the timing of nerve impulses in the brain. If bursts of radiation reduce reaction time by synchronising the discharge of action potentials in the cerebral cortex, they will evoke electrical potentials that can be detected in recordings from the scalp.

Potential Difficulties:

We may need to take special precautions to prevent electrical interference from the microwave radiation source on the sensitive recording equipment used to detect the electrical activity of the brain.


There is currently no explanation for the observation that radiation from mobile phones has effects on mental activity. The study should reveal how the radiation affects the activity of the brain. This knowledge is essential for an understanding of physiological mechanisms responsible for the effects on cognitive processes and any associated health risks.


Final Report:

The final report on this project is available to download.

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