Fake Brains A Smart Idea
Journalist: Louis Knapp
August 2, 1999
The idea may seem a bit macabre, but at least nobody’s losing his head over it.
Researchers at Britain’s Bristol University are using phantom heads — made of real skulls with fake flesh and liquid brains — to analyze how human beings react to high-frequency radio waves from cell phones.
The cell-phone standardization (CEPHOS) heads use modeling clay, anti6.00ze, and an acrylic shell to simulate flesh. The ingredients of their liquid brains remain a trade secret.
MRI images gathered from the tests are compared with tests performed on human volunteers. However, the phantom heads allow for specific absorption rate measurements that are impossible to conduct on humans.
Specific absorption can only be measured with electric field probes — thermal measurement devices that have to be inserted into skull. An Austrian group has done the same type of research with heads removed from cadavers.
The amount of harmful waves emitted from cell phones can differ by as much as a factor of 40, said Dr. Alan Preece of Bristol University’s medical physics research center, in an email. He was unwilling to say which models were the worst offenders until after the results are released this fall.
Preece also declined to elaborate on the effects cell phones has on brain activity, “I am still working on that,” he said.
But existing research convinced Preece to change his old cell phone to a different model with lower emissions, he told The Toronto Star last year.
Results of the current study will be sent to European Union officials charged with setting new cell-phone safety standards by the end of the year.
The research was sponsored by Panorama, a news documentary program broadcast by the BBC.