Acute effects on the visual and visuo-motor systems by exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) at a frequency and amplitude similar to those produced by MR imaging gradient coils were assessed. 40 volunteers were exposed in random order to three, time varying, magnetic field gradients (0, 20 and 10 mT m(-1)r.m.s.). The waveform was 50 cycles of a 490 Hz sinusoidal waveform repeated every second with a total duration of 10 min for each trial. The EMFs were generated using an in-house designed and built magnetic gradient coil and waveform generator. During each trial, a test battery assessing the visual sensory (FACT) and visuo-motor (Pursuit Aiming 11 and visual tracking) neurobehavioral domains was completed by all volunteers. The sequence of these tests was assigned at random for each volunteer. Performance in these tests was analysed using linear mixed effects models adjusted for confounding factors collected in a pre-trial questionnaire. Variability of the estimates was assessed using a delete-1 jack-knife procedure. There was a trend for visuo-motor accuracy to be reduced (p=0.06) by 1% during high exposure, but not at medium exposure. There was a weaker trend for visual contrast sensitivity to be improved by 12% and 21% during medium and high exposure, respectively, compared with the non-exposed sessions (p=0.08). These effects did not reach 5% statistical significance within a population of 40 volunteers, but also the magnitude of these effects did not depend on single "extreme" observations.
- STATIC MAGNETIC-FIELDS