Objective: This study was conducted to examine sensory and cognitive processing in adolescents,
young adults and older adults, when exposed to 2nd (2G) and 3rd (3G) generation mobile
Methods: Tests employed were the auditory oddball and the N-back. Forty-one 13-15 year olds,
forty-two 19-40 year olds and twenty 55-70 year olds were tested using a double-blind
cross-over design, where each participant received Sham, 2G and 3G exposures,
separated by at least 4 days.
Results: Accuracy was not affected by exposure overall, but an augmented N1 was found in the
2G condition (independent of age group). The combined groups performed less
accurately on the N-back during the 3G exposure (compared to Sham), with post hoc
tests finding this effect in the adolescents only. No effect of 2G exposure on N-back was
found either overall or in any group separately, and no effect of 2G or 3G exposure was
found on reaction time. Neurophysiological underpinnings (event-related alpha; ERA) of
the 3G behavioural effects were also affected, with more early ERA and slower late ERA
in the 3G (compared to Sham).
Conclusion/Significance: Employing tasks tailored to each individual’s ability level, this study provides support for an effect of acute 3G exposure on human cognitive function.