VSL:SCIENCE // How your phone messes with your mind

It’s a familiar warning: Before the airplane leaves the gate, the pilot requests that all cell phones be turned off. The reason is that cell phones emit a faint electromagnetic signal, which can interfere with the onboard computers. But what about the human brain? After all, our cortex is also an electric circuit, stuffed full of cells that use bursts of voltage to communicate. Could cell phones also disrupt that fancy piece of machinery stuffed inside your skull?

The disconcerting answer, it turns out, is yes. Cell phones really do mess with your head. A recent study monitored the brainwaves of 120 healthy subjects while a Nokia 6110 — one of the most popular cell phones in the world — was strapped to their head. The scientists could clearly see that when the cell phone was activated, the normal pattern of alpha waves in the brain was significantly disrupted, which made it much harder for the subjects to fall asleep.

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