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BfS research projects on the effect of strong static magnetic fields

People get in touch with strong static magnetic fields for example during magnetic resonance imaging, a diagnostic method used in medicine. The devices used actually in clinical practice have predominantly a magnetic flux density of 1.5 or 3 Tesla. In research, devices with 7 and 9.4 Tesla are already tested. In the future, these devices will be introduced in medical diagnostic. The question, if these stronger fields affect the health of patients and medical stuff, has been investigated in three research projects commissioned by the BfS.

Article Influence on reproduction and development

During the last years, magnetic resonance imaging is increasingly used for diagnostics also in pregnant women and in gynaecology. The development of more efficient scanners with higher flux densities for improvement of the quality of the images requires verification of biological safety especially for pregnant women and the unborn child. From 2008 to 2011, scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, conducted studies on laboratory animals to answer the question of whether, and if so, how, strong static magnetic fields influence the reproduction (fertility, pregnancy) of mammals and the development of embryos as well as the further physical development of the offspring.

Article Influence on emotional and cognitive behaviour

Within a research project the development of emotional and cognitive behaviour in young male and female mice regularly exposed to magnetic fields of 7 Tesla during their whole embryonic development were investigated. This did not result in behavioural abnormalities or differences in emotional behaviour (anxiety, depression) or cognitive behaviour (working memory, long-term memory) in the young adult age.

Article Influence on cognitive performance

Especially during interventions realised in open magnetic resonance scanners the medical stuff is exposed to strong static magnetic fields. It is necessary to ensure that the performance of the medical stuff is not impaired due to exposure and does not pose a risk for the patients. This topic was investigated in the project "Effects of Exposure to Strong Static Magnetic Fields on the Cognitive Performance of Volunteers". Several subjects reported predominantly at seven Tesla and during movement in magnetic field gradients vertigo, nystagmus, magnetophosphenes and head ringing. Nevertheless, the annoying perceptions did not have any influence on the cognitive performance of volunteers. Most of them got quickly accustomed to the exposure and the symptoms disappeared. The magnetic field had no influence on stress hormone level in saliva and blood.

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