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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Electric secrets of good health
By Georgina Kenyon

You may not realise it, but you run on electricity.

Some scientists believe that if a person's naturally occurring electric and magnetic fields are disturbed, serious health problems and disease like cancer can develop.

"There are a lot of researchers now carrying out experiments on the activity of electricity and magnetism in human beings," according to Dr Gerard Hyland, biophysicist, formerly at Warwick University, Coventry.

But these researchers are not the sort of scientists who would like you to think they are dabbling in the ancient Eastern study of Reiki and energy fields.

Scientists have known for a long time that all cells in the human body produce electricity to function and communicate and that the brain itself can be likened to a sort of electricity generator.

But the effect on health when these electrical impulses are disturbed has not been widely studied or understood.

Mobile phones

The recent spate of conflicting research conducted into the effects of mobile phones on the body illustrates how little scientists have understood about human electric and magnetic fields and the effects of external radiation.

But international research over the past year seems to be pointing to some conclusive answers, at least on mobile phones.

Our brain is a very delicate biochemical and electrical instrument

Dr Gerard Hyland, scientist
Dr Hyland said: "The effect from the incoming radiation from mobile phones on the body depends on your genes and your own particular electrical make-up."

Because mobile phones are used next to the head, researchers are studying the effect on the brain.

"The brain is an electrochemical instrument, which produces electrical brain waves. Radiation from outside the human body affects these brain waves in three ways; by causing a resonance effect, creating static and interference or, by shifting the brain's frequency," he explained.

Monitoring brain electricity

Hyland and researchers in Spain have been using a device similar to an electrocardiogram (ECG) but which uses a colour print out to depict changes in the electric make-up of the brain. The team has been measuring the effectiveness of a clip on device for mobile phones.

"Health problems occur when radiation from outside the body is very similar or the same as the brain's natural electrical frequency. The health effects seem to persist by upsetting the brain's biochemical balance, interfering with the release of melatonin, an anti cancer hormone which is released during the night," said Dr Hyland.

"The incoming waves can also affect "rapid eye movement" and deep sleep as well as damage the blood brain barrier which prevents toxic chemicals from entering into brain, similar to what happens when a person is drunk," he said.

"Our brain is a very delicate biochemical and electrical instrument and incoming oscillating waves affect our health," explained Dr Hyland.

Depression treatment

Current research into depression also shows how the magnetic fields inside the brain can effect health.

Dr Tonmoy Sharma, consultant psychiatrist from the Institute of Psychiatry, London, is studying how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning can chart how the brain works.

His team is using fMRI to research the functions of the brain and to pinpoint abnormal reaction in the brain, such as when a person is depressed.

"We are measuring the difference in magnetic properties between oxygenated haemoglobin and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the cells of the brain to pinpoint these abnormalities," explained Dr Sharma.

Dr Sharma explained that magnetic imaging will allow doctors to detect the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer's and depression.

"The changes in blood flow and its changes in magnetism will allow doctors to see the beginnings of disease in the mind well before the disease manifests itself physically," said Dr Sharma.

Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, consultant psychiatrist from the Florence Nightingale Clinic in Chelsea agrees with this prediction.

"In the future there will be a lot of transcranial electromagnetic stimulation to treat depression," he said.

"The current studies in mobile phones are just the beginning of research and treatment to protect human beings' delicate electrical constitution from radiation," concluded Dr Hyland.

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