Binding and release of brain calcium by low-level electromagnetic fields: A review


  • W. R. Adey,

  • S. M. Bawin


Evidence has accumulated that sensitivity of brain tissue to specific weak oscillating electromagnetic fields occurs in the absence of significant tissue heating (less than 0.1°C). This review focuses on the ‘windowed’ character of sensitivities of calcium binding and electrical activity in brain tissue to low-frequency modulation and intensity characteristics of impressed RF fields. ELF fields decrease calcium efflux from isolated chick and cat cerebral tissue by about 15% only in narrow amplitude and frequency ‘windows,’ between 6 and 20 Hz and between 10 and 100 V/m (approximate tissue gradient, 10−7 V/cm). VHF (147 MHz) and UHF (450 MHz) fields increase calcium efflux from isolated chick brain by about 15% when amplitude modulated between 6 and 20 Hz, but only for incident fields in the vicinity of 1.0 mW/cm2. We have now shown that this increased efflux in response to 16-Hz amplitude-modulated 450-MHz, 0.75-mW/cm2 field exposure is insensitive to variations in calcium concentration from 0 to 4.16 mM in the testing solution but is enhanced by addition of hydrogen ions (0.108 mM 0.1 N HCl) and inhibited in the absence of normal bicarbonate ion levels (2.4 mM). In the presence of lanthanum ions (2.0 mM), which block transmembrane movement of calcium, exposure to these EM fields decreases the 45Ca2 + efflux. Low-frequency gradients may be transduced in a specific class of extracellular binding sites, normally occupied by calcium ions and susceptible to competitive hydrogen ion binding. Transductive coupling may involve coherent charge states between anionic sites on membrane surface glycoproteins, with longrange cooperative interactions triggered by weak extracellular electric fields. Proton ‘tunneling’ may occur at boundaries between coherent and noncoherent charge zones.