BRITISH scientists have launched the world's biggest investigation into the effects of mobile phones on the developing brains of children.
The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (Scamp) will focus on mental functions such as memory and attention which continue to develop into the teenage years.
About 2500 school children will be tested at age 11 and 12 and undergo a further assessment two years later. Most children own a mobile phone by 11 or 12.
Professor Patrick Haggard, deputy director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London and chairman of the Scamp steering committee, said it will be the world's largest follow-up study of its kind in adolescents.
"This study has two particularly valuable aspects: it attempts to estimate the children's exposure to radio frequency 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," he said.
While there is no convincing evidence that mobile phones effect adult health, experts believe children may be more vulnerable due to their developing nervous systems and thinner skulls, which absorb higher levels of radio energy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked studies of the effects of mobile phones on children and adolescents as a "highest priority research need".
Current British health guidelines say that children under 16 should be encouraged only to use mobile phones for essential calls, and where possible to use a hands-free kit or to send text messages. When they do have to make calls, they are advised to keep them short.