Skip to main content

Human short-term exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones decreases computer-assisted visual reaction time


The worldwide dramatic increase in mobile phone use has generated great concerns about the detrimental effects of microwave radiations emitted by these communication devices. Reaction time plays a critical role in performing tasks necessary to avoid hazards. As far as we know, this study is the first survey that reports decreased reaction time after exposure to electromagnetic fields generated by a high specific absorption rate mobile phone. It is also the first study in which previous history of mobile phone use is taken into account. The aim of this study was to assess both the acute and chronic effects of electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones on reaction time in university students. Visual reaction time (VRT) of young university students was recorded with a simple blind computer-assisted-VRT test, before and after a 10 min real/sham exposure to electromagnetic fields of mobile phones. Participants were 160 right-handed university students aged 18–31. To assess the effect of chronic exposures, the reaction time in sham-exposed phases were compared among low level, moderate and frequent users of mobile phones. The mean ± SD reaction time after real exposure and sham exposure were 286.78 ± 31.35 ms and 295.86 ± 32.17 ms (P < 0.001), respectively. The age of students did not significantly alter the reaction time either in talk or in standby mode. The reaction time either in talk or in standby mode was shorter in male students. The students’ VRT was significantly affected by exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by a mobile phone. It can be concluded that these exposures cause decreased reaction time, which may lead to a better response to different hazards. In this light, this phenomenon might decrease the chances of human errors and fatal accidents.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. WHO, Radiation, Mobile Phones, Base Stations and Your Health—The Internet,, accessed on November 10, 2011

  2. O’Brien NP, Goodwin AH, Foss RD (2010) Talking and texting among teenage drivers: a glass half empty or half full? Traffic Inj Prev 11(6):549–554 [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Strayer DL, Drews FA (2004) Profiles in driver distraction: effects of cell phone conversations on younger and older drivers. Hum Factors 46:640–649

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. de Tommaso M, Rossi P, Falsaperla R, Francesco Vde V, Santoro R, Federici A et al (2009) Mobile phones exposure induces changes of contingent negative variation in humans. Neurosci Lett 464(2):79–83 [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Jin J (1999) Electromagnetic analysis and design in magnetic resonance imaging. CRC Press, USA

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ragha LK, Bhatia MS (2010) Evaluation SAR reduction mobile phones using RF shields. Int J Comput App 1(13):80–86

    Google Scholar 

  7. Mortazavi SMJ, Ahmadi J, Shariati M (2007) Prevalence of subjective poor health symptoms associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields among university students. Bioelectromagnetics 28:326–330

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Bracy O (1995) PSS CogRehab, Version 95. Psychological Software Services, Indianapolis

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hamblin DL, Wood AW, Croft RJ, Stough C (2004) Examining the effects of electromagnetic fields emitted by GSM mobile phones on human event-related potentials and performance during an auditory task. Neurophysiology 115(1):171–178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Terao Y, Okano T, Furubayashi T, Ugawa Y (2006) Effects of thirty-minute mobile phone use on visuo-motor reaction time. Clin Neurophysiol 117(11):2504–2511 [Randomized Controlled Trial Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hamblin DL, Croft RJ, Wood AW, Stough C, Spong J (2006) The sensitivity of human event-related potentials and reaction time to mobile phone emitted electromagnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetics 27(4):265–273 [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Melissa Nolan, Jennifer Nitz, Nancy Low Choy, SaraIlling et al (2010) Age-related changes in musculoskeletal function, balance and mobility measures in men aged 30–80 years. Aging Male 13(3):194–201

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Der G, Deary IJ (2006) Age and sex differences in reaction time in adulthood: results from the United Kingdom health and lifestyle survey. Psychol Aging 21(1):62–73

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Burgmans S, Gronenschild EH, Fandakova Y, Shing YL, van Boxtel MP, Vuurman EF et al (2011) Age differences in speed of processing are partially mediated by differences in axonal integrity. Neuroimage 55(3):1287–1297

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Sparrow WA, Begg RK, Parker S (2006) Aging effects on visual reaction time in a single task condition and when treadmill walking. Motor Control 10(3):201–211 [Comparative Study]

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Jimenez–Jimenez FJ, Calleja M, Alonso-Navarro H, Rubio L, Navacerrada F, Pilo-de-la-Fuente B et al (2011) Influence of age and gender in motor performance in healthy subjects. J Neurol Sci 302(1–2):72–80 [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Aalto S, Haarala C, Brück A, Sipilä H, Hämäläinen H, Rinne JO (2006) Mobile phone affects cerebral blood flow in humans. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 26(7):885–890

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kwon MS, Vorobyev V, Kännälä S, Laine M, Rinne JO, Toivonen T, et al. (2011) No effects of short-term GSM mobile phone radiation on cerebral blood flow measured using positron emission tomography. Bioelectromagnetics

  19. Lindholm H, Alanko T, Rintamäki H, Kännälä S, Toivonen T, Sistonen H, Tiikkaja M, Halonen J, Mäkinen T, Hietanen M et al (2011) Thermal effects of mobile phone RF fields on children: a provocation study. Prog Biophys Mol Biol 107(3):399–403

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Haarala C, Aalto S, Hautzel H, Julkunen L, Rinne JO, Laine M, Krause B, Hämäläinen H (2003) Effects of a 902 MHz mobile phone on cerebral blood flow in humans: a PET study. Neuroreport 14(16):2019–2023

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to acknowledge the students whose assistance and cooperation aided in the completion of this study. This study was supported by The Center for Research in Radiological Sciences (CRRS), Shiraz University of Medical Sciences.

Conflict of interest


Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. M. J. Mortazavi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mortazavi, S.M.J., Rouintan, M.S., Taeb, S. et al. Human short-term exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones decreases computer-assisted visual reaction time. Acta Neurol Belg 112, 171–175 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Reaction time
  • Mobile phone
  • Electromagnetic field
  • University students