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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2009 Mar;116(3):257-65. doi: 10.1007/s00702-009-0184-2. Epub 2009 Feb 3.

Does exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields produce functional changes in human brain?

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Institute of Neurology, Università Cattolica, L.go A. Gemelli 8, 00168, Rome, Italy.


Behavioral and neurophysiological changes have been reported after exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) both in animals and in humans. The physiological bases of these effects are still poorly understood. In vitro studies analyzed the effect of ELF-MF applied in pulsed mode (PEMFs) on neuronal cultures showing an increase in excitatory neurotransmission. Using transcranial brain stimulation, we studied noninvasively the effect of PEMFs on several measures of cortical excitability in 22 healthy volunteers, in 14 of the subjects we also evaluated the effects of sham field exposure. After 45 min of PEMF exposure, intracortical facilitation produced by paired pulse brain stimulation was significantly enhanced with an increase of about 20%, while other parameters of cortical excitability remained unchanged. Sham field exposure produced no effects. The increase in paired-pulse facilitation, a physiological parameter related to cortical glutamatergic activity, suggests that PEMFs exposure may produce an enhancement in cortical excitatory neurotransmission. This study suggests that PEMFs may produce functional changes in human brain.

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