Over the past decade there has been a growing awareness that electrical and magnetic forces have specific effects on living organisms. These effects are produced by forces of very low magnitude and are not explainable in such simplistic terms as Joule heating. They appear to indicate sensitivities on the part of living organisms several orders of magnitude greater than predictable by present concepts of cellular or organismal physiology.
The effects are apparently separable into two broad categories: those that involve general or specialized functions of the central nervous system (CNS), and those that involve postembryonic growth and healing process. CNS effects include the production of general anesthesia by electrical currents that traverse the brain, the direction of migratory behavior of the Atlantic eel by the earth's electrostatic field, the navigational aid furnished homing pigeon by the earth's magnetic field, the apparent cue for the timing of biological cycles by the earth's magnetic field, and the direct relationship between reversals of the earth's magnetic field and the extinction of whole species in the geological past. Growth effects include the alteration of bone growth by electromagnetic energy, the restoration of partial limb regeneration in mammals by small direct currents, the inhibition of growth of implanted tumors by currents and fields, the effect upon cephalocaudal axis development in the regenerating flatworm in a polarity-dependent fashion by applied direct currents, and the production of morphological alterations in embryonic development by manipulation of the electrochemical species present in the environment. This partial list illustrates the great variety of known bioelectromagnetic phenomena.
The reported biological effects involve basic functions of living material that are under remarkably precise control by mechanisms which have, to date, escaped description in terms of solution biochemistry. This suggests that bioelectromagnetic phenomena are fundamental attributes of living thingsones that must have been present in the first living things. The traditional approach to biogenesis postulates that life began in an aqueous environment, with the development of complex molecules and their subsequent sequestration from the environment by membranous structures. The solid-state approach proposes an origin in complex crystalline structures that possess such properties as semiconductivity, photoconductivity, and piezoelectricity. All of the reported effects of electromagnetic forces seem to lend support to the latter hypothesis.
It is not difficult to conceive of a crystal with self-organizing and self-repairing properties based upon semiconductivity. Signals that indicated trauma would be transmitted by electron flow within the lattice, accompanied by perturbations in the electric field of the crystal. Cyclic patterns of various physical properties would be manifested because of the interaction between lattice electrons and cyclic variations in the external electromagnetic field. Structures of this nature could have been the basis for subsequent organization of complex organic molecules and the gradual acquisition of aqueous-based energenic reactions. Despite the evolved complexity of the solution-based chemical reactions, there would have been no requirement that the solid-state system be discarded, and it could have continued to function into the metazoan state.
Accepting this premise, what characteristics would such a system have today? It would be manifested by an organized pattern of electrical potentials that would alter in a predictable fashion with trauma and subsequent repair processes. It would also be revealed by various types of solid-state properties associated with cells, cellular subunits, and cellular products. It would demonstrate characteristics of a control system, with identifiable input-output and transducer mechanisms. Finally, exposure of the organism to electromagnetic energy would produce alterations in the functions controlled by the system.
In succeeding chapters we present the evidence for this solid-state control system. We begin with the history of our subject because, more than in most areas, it has shaped present attitudes. Against the historical back-drop, one can see the reasons for the delay until the I970's in the recognition of the true role of electromagnetism in biology.
In chapter 2 we develop the evidence for the existence of a primitive (from an evolutionary standpoint) electrical analog-type data transmission and control system in living organisms. We show that this system resides in the perineural tissue, and that its operation complements the neural control achieved via the action potential.
The value of a new idea lies not only in its ability to explain and coordinate observations, but in the validity of predictions of phenomena based upon it. The concept of living things having intrinsic electromagnetic properties led to the prediction that living things would also respond to external electromagnetic energy-both natural and artificial. This prediction is so at variance with long-accepted concepts that positive confirmation from carefully executed experiments would constitute strong support or the parent concept. The work described in chapter 3 demonstrates that organisms can receive information about their environment in the form of natural electromagnetic signals, and that this can lead to physiological and behavioral changes.
In the following chapters we review evidence of the biological effects of artificial electromagnetic energy. A large amount of data has been collected regarding the effects of artificial fields upon the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, and hematological systems and each of these areas are treated separately. Other reports, not so easily classifiable, are reviewed in Chapter 8. Chapter 9 deals with the mechanisms of biological effects of electromagnetic energy.
The conclusion that electromagnetic energy can produce varied and nontrivial biological effects is inescapable. Furthermore, the evidence that such interactions can occur well below the thermal level is similarly inescapable. While this corpus of experimental data constitutes strong support for the theory of the intrinsic bioelectric control system that we resent, it also raises new and important environmental questions. Man's power and communications systems utilize extensive portions of the electromagnetic spectrum not previously present in the environment. The effect of this on the public health is discussed in chapter 10.
Knowledge of how living things work from the bioelectric
viewpoint is destined to lead to clinical advances. Some present applications
of this knowledge are discussed in chapter 11.
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