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07 October 2020

Hematoencephalic barrier and cerebral hypoxia: pathophysiological mechanism of the effects of electromagnetic fields in electrohypersensitive people

Hematoencephalic barrier and cerebral hypoxia: pathophysiological mechanism of the effects of electromagnetic fields in electrohypersensitive people

by Jacques Lintermans, Doctor of Science and André Vander Vorst, Professor Emeritus UC Louvain - translation

It has been known for decades that exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and in particular to microwave EMF can cause the opening of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The blood-brain barrier filters and controls the passage of substances in the bloodstream and prevents them from passing freely from the blood to the cerebrospinal fluid. It thus isolates the central nervous system from the rest of the body and allows it to have a specific environment, different from the internal environment of the rest of the body. A malfunctioning barrier allows hydrophilic molecules to enter the brain tissue that would normally be excluded, with the formation of edema and ischemia (1).

In experiments on animals, mainly rats, the effects of opening the barrier were observed at extremely variable levels of exposure to microwave power density and in particular much lower than that produced by a mobile phone. In fact, EMFs are likely to open the electrically charged channels of the cell membrane, especially the calcium channels, causing a massive influx of calcium into the cell with a chemical reaction producing peroxynitrite (2). This molecule has a stimulating action on the metalloproteases (MMP), proteolytic enzymes containing ionic zinc. MMPs act by regulating the extracellular protein matrix, which refers to the set of extracellular macromolecules in connective tissue and ensures the junction between the cells that make up the BBB (3). Stimulation of MMPs will degrade the components of this structure and cause the opening of the blood-brain barrier (4).

It is interesting to note that about thirty studies of the effect of microwave radiation on the barrier in rats have already been identified in 2001, verifying in particular the effect of cell phone radiation on the permeability of these barriers, at various powers of exposure (5).

The edema and ischemia associated with the opening of the BBB (6) cause a decrease in blood supply to the brain. Such a mechanism of action is consistent with the reduction in brain blood flow measured in subjects voluntarily exposed to cell phone EMF (7).

One result of decreased blood supply to the brain is hypoxia.

Whether among Air Force pilots whose time of useful consciousness is being tested experimentally in a hypobaric chamber, or among mountaineers in high mountains, it has been observed that in conditions of rarefied oxygen, cognitive disorders, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental confusion and headaches appear, which are the consequences of cerebral hypoxia (8).

These symptoms are precisely those reported by electrohypersensitive people (EHS) in the presence of EMF emitters.

If it is considered probable that cerebral hypoxia following the opening of the BBB under the effect of EMFs is responsible for the symptoms of electrohypersensitivity, the pathophysiological origin of these symptoms would seem to be demonstrated.


(1) Person B. R. et al. Effects of Microwaves from GSM Mobile Phones on the Blood-Brain Barrier and Neurons in Rat Brain. Progress in Electromagnetic Research Symposium, 2005 Hangzhou, China, August 22-26

(2) Pall M., Microwave electromagnetic fields act by activating voltage-gated calcium channels: why the current international safety standards do not predict biological hazard. Recent Res. Devel. Mol. Cell. Biol. 2014

(3) Suofu Y. et al., Peroxynitrite decomposition catalyst prevents MMP activation and neurovascular injury after prolonged cerebral ischemia in rats. J Neurochem. 2010; 115(5) : 1266-1276

(4) Rempe R. G., Hatz A. M. S., Bauer B., Matrix metalloproteinases in the brain and blood-brain barrier: Versatile breakers and makers. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2016; 36(9): 1481-1507

(5) Lin J. C., The Blood-Brain Barrier, Cancer, Cell Phones, and Microwave Radiation, IEEE Microwave Mag., Vol. 2, no. 4, Dec. 2001, pp. 26-30

(6) Daneman R, Prat A, The Blood Brain Barrier. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, 2015;7(1):a O20412

(7)Aalto S, Haarala C, Brück A, Sipilä H, Hämäläinen H, Rinne JO. Mobile phone affects cerebral blood flow in humans. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2006;26:885–90.

(8) Malle C., Bourrilhon C., Laisney M., Quinette P., Desgranges B. et al. Hypoxie et mémoire : impacts neuropathologiques et neuropsychologiques des différents types d’hypoxie. Revue de Neuropsychologie, Adrsc, 2012, 4(1) ; 60-8, inserm-00734267

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