Wind Turbine Syndrome & the Brain, Dr. Nina Pierpont
First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects: Loss of Social Justice?
Keynote address by Dr. Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD
Picton, Ontario, Canada, October 30, 2010.
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 wellbeing out to 1400 m (4600 ft) from turbines, with diminishing effects out to 5 km (3 miles).