We all know that feeling when we misplace our mobile phone. Irritation and  frustration can ensue and,  
in more extreme cases, bouts 
of anger.

However,  now new research has suggested that there could be medical implications as well, with users being placed at risk when separated from their beloved devices. Research from the University of Missouri in the United States found that being separated from cell phones or iPhones can have serious psychological and physiological effects, including a significant increase in anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure levels. The researchers say the findings suggest that iPhone users should avoid parting with their phones during situations that involve a great deal of attention, such as taking tests, sitting in conferences or meetings, or completing important work assignments, because being separated could result in poorer performance. Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the MU School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said: “Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks.

“Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.” To conduct the test, Russell, along with Glenn Leshner, former professor at MU, now at the University of Oklahoma and Anthony Almond, doctoral student at Indiana University-Bloomington, asked iPhone users to sit at a computer cubicle in a media psychology lab. The researchers told the participants that the purpose of the experiment was to test the reliability of a new blood pressure cuff. Participants completed the first word search puzzle with their iPhone in their possession and the second word one without their iPhone while the researchers monitored their heart rates and blood pressure levels. While completing the first puzzle, the researchers recorded participants’ heart rate and blood pressure responses and asked them to describe their levels of anxiety and how unpleasant or pleasant they felt.

Next, and while in possession of their iPhones, those taking part were informed that their iPhones were causing “Bluetooth interference” with the wireless blood pressure cuff and that they needed to be placed further away in the room. The researchers then provided a second word search puzzle and, while people, were working on them, the team called the iPhones. After the phones finished ringing, researchers again collected blood pressure and heart rate responses and asked those taking part to describe how they felt. They found a significant increase in anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure levels, and a significant decrease in puzzle performance when the participants were separated from their iPhones as compared to when they had them. Also, performance, measured via the number of words found on word search puzzles, decreased as compared to when iPhone users completed puzzles while in possession of their iPhones.

Grants allow research to go ahead

Four teams of scientists have been awarded research grants from the John S. Dunn Collaborative Research Awards in the United States. Antonios Mikos, of Rice Univeristy in Houston, and Dimitrios Kontoyiannis, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, are seeking a way to treat nectrotising invasive mould infections suffered by patients with suppressed immune systems. The infections are difficult to treat because the mould disrupts blood vessels needed to deliver anti-fungal medications.

Fred Pereira, of Baylor College of Medicine, and James Tour, of Rice University, will study ways to minimise the side-effects of widely-used cisplatin chemotherapy compounds that kill cancer cells by damaging DNA. One side-effect is damage to normal non-dividing cells in organs such as the inner ear, which can lead to high-frequency hearing loss that can progress to lower-frequency loss and tinnitus. Jacob Robinson, of Rice University, and Russell Ray, of Baylor College of Medicine, are working to understand how neurons in the brain stem detect carbon dioxide. The cells adjust breathing to balance blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels but abnormalities in the process are suspected in a number of neurological and developmental disorders, including Rett Syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome and may also contribute to panic disorders and anxiety attacks in adults.

Eugene Zubarev, of Rice, and Sunil Krishnan, of MD Anderson, are working to improve the treatment of tumours with radiation after intravenous administration of extremely small quantities of gold nanoparticles. The Dunn Foundation is a longtime supporter of collaborative research through the Gold Coast Consortia (GCC), which builds biomedical research teams that involve the computational, chemical, mathematical and physical sciences. GCC member institutions include Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, the University of Houston, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of Texas MD Anderson.