Mobile phones do affect brain activity, study finds
Friday 25th February, 2011
KARA SANTOS IN MANILA
IPS Asia-Pacific/ ANN
nyone who maintains a blog or has a
Facebook or Twitter account is in danger of
becoming a potential
Millions use Facebook to keep in touch with
their friends, post photos of reunions and parties
and share links to interesting articles and videos.
But for 24-year old Maria (not her real name), the
popular social networking site became a source of
public shame when a former boyfriend posted nude
photos and videos of her in an account he had created under her name.
As if that weren’t enough to humiliate her, the
spurned boyfriend also mailed a copy of the video
to the girl’s Muslim parents.
In a separate incident, the ordeal of a 17-yearold nursing student who was gang-raped by at least
four schoolmates was captured on a camera phone
and made its way into cyberspace.
While modern innovations have made lives easier for millions of women worldwide, they have also
led to a rise in cases of electronic violence against
women or ‘eVAW’, according to a recent forum
organised by women’s rights groups.
“Violence against women is mutating because
of technology,” says Cheekay Cinco of the
Association for Progressive Communications
(APC). “The Internet has opened up private lives
into new avenues of potential violence.”
Cinco says anyone who maintains a blog or
has a Facebook or Twitter account is in danger
of becoming a potential victim.
“If there are malicious people who want to
stalk you, there is so much information they
can get online. People have access to your
friends, your email address and mobile
phone number just by ‘friending’ you on
Facebook,” she says.
The two cases made the news following a
highly publicised sex scandal between
Filipina actress Katrina Halili and cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho. The actress
claimed that video footage of their intimate acts together was taken and
uploaded without her consent. The video,
which went viral in 2008, was hawked
openly on street DVDs and was one of
the most downloaded videos on the
In December, after months of court
hearings and investigations, a local
court threw out the case on the basis
that the prosecution failed to give proof
that it was indeed Kho who had uploaded
the said sex video to the Internet.
Cases of cyber harassment and stalking, online pornography, unauthorised recording, and reproduction and distribution of images
and video are becoming more rampant in the country partly due to the popularity of camera phones
and social networking sites.
“What’s alarming is that we’re seeing more
cases of women being blackmailed with intimate
photos,” says Cinco. “They take these photos with
the full trust that the other person will use it pri-
vately but it is being used
to keep young girls in relationships that they don’t
want to be in any more.”
The Philippines currently has the sixth
largest population of
Facebook users in the
world—with over 19 million users as of
December 2010. The
country is also said to
have the highest
social media engagement in the AsiaPacific region
Internet marketing research firm
also high, with
roughly 80 per cent
of the 92 million-strong
Filipino population owning mobile
phones, according to the National
“Since our office was established in 2003 to deal
with Cybercrime cases till the present—there really
has been an increasing trend,” agrees chief inspector Efren Fernandez of the Cybercrime Unit of the
Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation
and Detection Group.
Though cases remain highly underreported,
Fernandez said more people are coming forward to
report cases. “The awareness of the people is
increasing. They already know they have become
victims of Cybercrime,” he tells IPS on the sidelines of the forum.
According to a report by security software firm
Symantec, as many as 87 per cent of Filipino
Internet users surveyed are falling victims to
online criminal activities and malicious attacks
every year—including online harassment and sexual predation.
But groups like the Foundation for Media
Alternatives (FMA), one of the forum organisers,
believe that technology can be a double-edged
sword. The non-profit group is spearheading a global campaign for women to take control of technology.
Through their Feminist Technology
Exchange (FTX) programme,
they provide a venue for
women to better
obile phones do affect the brain,
according to state-funded
research, although the implications for health remain unclear.
A study found that brain activity
increased significantly after using a
handset for 50 minutes, in the area closest to the antenna.
A truth that’s
technology and its potential and impact on their
rights and lives.
“Those who have more control over technology—control meaning they understand it, they know
how it works, they know how to change it from a
deep technical level—have more power over those
just using it,” says Cinco, who serves as an FTX
The first FTX session focused on teaching
women working on women’s and children’s rights
issues how to secure online communications since
perpetrators have used these sites to track movements and harvest information from women.
Another session provided women an opportunity to
effects of the electromagnetic radiation
emitted by handsets, and absorbed by the
brain when held next to the ear.
Professor Patrick Haggard, Institute
of Cognitive Neuroscience at University
College London, said: “This is a very
interesting result, since it suggests a possible direct effect of mobile phone sig-
create digital stories to raise awareness on violence
“Technology can victimise you but it can also be
the solution to your victimisation. If you understand how to use it, the potential to be victimised is
lessened,” says Cinco.
The FTX is part of the Take Back the Tech campaign, being implemented in 12 countries globally
by the Association of Progressive Communications
Women’s Networking Support Program (APC
WNSP), which calls for women and girls to take
control of technology to end violence against
whether such effects have implications
In the study, Dr Nora Volkow of the
US government’s National Institutes of
Health conducted an experiment on 47
people to establish if mobile phone exposure affected regional activity in the
Mobile phones do affect brain
activity, study finds
It comes after a controversial
decade-long project suggested that
heavy mobile use could increase the
risk of brain cancer by up to 40 per cent.
However the new investigation did
not look at the potential carcinogenic
nals on brain function.”
He said there were several limitations
to the study, but added: “If further studies confirm that mobile phone signals do
have direct effects on brain metabolism,
then it will be important to investigate
They placed mobile phones on both
ears of the participants and measured
brain activity once when the right-hand
mobile was on for 50 minutes with the
sound muted, and then with both phones
Scans were studied to see what effect
they had on glucose metabolism – the
process whereby the brain processes
sugar for energy.
They found that metabolism across
the whole brain did not alter in the two
tests, but metabolism in the brain region
closest to the antenna - the orbitofrontal
cortex and temporal pole - was 7 per cent
higher when the mobile was switched on.
Dr Volkow said: “Results of this study
provide evidence that acute cell phone
exposure affects brain metabolic activity.
“However, these results provide no
information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects - or
lack of such effects - from chronic cell
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