Britain Launches a Large Study on Cognitive Effects of the Use of Mobile Phones by Adolescnts


The British Ministry of Health commissioned a study named SCAMP (The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones) to determine whether mobile phones affect cognitive and behavioral development of adolescents. The study population will comprise about 2500 schoolchildren aged 11-12.  It is estimated that most children of that age in Britain own mobile phones.  Over a period of three years the researchers will collect data on how the adolescents use the phones and the amount of use.  At the end of this period they will assess the effect of the use of mobile phones on the cognitive functions (such as memory and attention) of the adolescents.


Current health recommendations in Britain advise that children under the age of 16 should be encouraged to use mobile phones for essential purposes only, whenever possible using a hands-free kit or text messages, and if calls are really necessary to keep them short.  These recommendations are based on the precautionary principle .


The Principal Investigator of the research team is Dr. Mireille Toledano, of the PHE-MRC Center for Environmental Health at Imperial College, London.  According to Dr. Toledano, the importance of the SCAMP study lies in "providing the evidence base with which to inform policy and through which parents and their children can make informed life choices regarding the use of mobile phones."

Dr. Toledano pointed out that the SCAMP study would focus on "the ongoing development of cognitive functions in the brain during adolescence.  Cognition is essentially how we think, how we make decisions, and how we process and recall information. It is related to intelligence and educational achievement and constitutes the building blocks of the creative and innovative potential of any individual, and therefore of society as a whole." 

Professor Patrick Haggard, Deputy Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London, and Chairman of the SCAMP steering committee expressed his satisfaction that Britain was contributing to research in this field – the largest follow-up study of its kind in adolescents.  He pointed out that "this study has two particularly valuable aspects: it attempts to estimate the children's exposure to radiofrequency fields as precisely as possible, and it uses a carefully-designed suite of tests to measure many of the key cognitive functions that are developing during adolescence."

It should be mentioned that the World Health Organization has attached the highest priority to research investigating the effect of mobile phones on children and adolescents.  The study is funded by the British Government and mobile phone operators.

For full details: SCAMP website