Hello? Can You Hear Me?
People who own smartphones often end up using their thumbs-a lot!-swiping through various touchscreens on an ongoing basis throughout the day.
All that thumb action can create physical changes in the brain, researchers say, leaving certain regions more active or even enlarged.
Scientists suspected this might be the case, since something similar happens to violinists. Regions of the brain associated with dexterity are larger in musicians who have played the violin for some time. Would smartphone thumbers show similar changes in brain activity?
Deciding to test the theory, researcher Arko Ghosh hooked 37 people-26 of whom frequently used touch-screen smartphones-to something called an electroencephalograph. Sure enough, people who had used their smartphones a lot in the previous ten days showed increased activity in the part of the brain related to their thumbs. The eleven subjects who used cellphones with regular keypads did not show that same increased activity.
The moral of the story? We're not sure what it all means, yet, but Ghosh did sum up his research by saying, "The digital technology we use on a daily basis shapes the sensory processing in our brains, and on a scale that surprised us."