Pierpont, Dr. N Wind Turbine Syndrome and the Brain

Dr Nina Pierpont, MD PhD
Keynote Address, “First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry & Adverse Health Effects: Loss of Social Justice?”

The following is the abstract of Dr. Pierpont’s keynote address before the “First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects: Loss of Social Justice?” in Picton, Ontario, Canada, October 29-31, 2010, followed by a discussion of other relevant talks at the symposium by Alec Salt, Michael Nissenbaum, Christopher Hanning, and Richard James.

Wind Turbine Syndrome & the Brain — Abstract

The latest research, as discussed below, suggests the following mechanism for Wind Turbine Syndrome: air-borne or body-borne low-frequency sound directly stimulates the inner ear, with physiologic responses of both cochlea (hearing organ) and otolith organs (saccule and utricle — organs of balance and motion detection).

Research has now proved conclusively that physiologic responses in the cochlea suppress the hearing response to low-frequency sound but still send signals to the brain, signals whose function is, at present, mostly unknown. The physiologic response of the cochlea to turbine noise is also a trigger for tinnitus and the brain-cell-level reorganization that tinnitus represents — reorganization that can have an impact on language processing and the profound learning processes related to language processing.

New research also demonstrates that the “motion-detecting” otolith organs of mammals also respond to air-borne low-frequency sound. Physiologic responses and signals from the otolith organs are known to generate a wide range of brain responses, including dizziness and nausea (seasickness, even without the movement), fear and alerting (startle, wakefulness), and difficulties with visually-based problem-solving.

Increased alerting in the presence of wind turbine noise disturbs sleep, even when people do not recall being awakened. A population-level survey in Maine now shows clear disturbances of sleep and mental well-being out to 1400 m (4600 ft) from turbines, with diminishing effects out to 5 km (3 miles).

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