Smartphones Are Giving Thumbs Superpowers

A recent study suggests that smartphone use has changed the way thumbs and brains operate together, with brain signals becoming supercharged when the thumbs and fingertips are engaged. A report in the Cell Press journal ‘Current Biology’ directly attributes this leap in brain signals when thumbs are used to the proliferation of smartphones over the last decade.

“I was really surprised by the scale of the changes introduced by the use of smartphones,” Dr. Arko Ghosh, neuroscientist at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, said. “I was also struck by how much of the inter-individual variations in the fingertip-associated brain signals could be simply explained by evaluating the smartphone logs.”

Dr. Ghosh explains, “I think first we must appreciate how common personal digital devices are and how densely people use them. What this means for us neuroscientists is that the digital history we carry in our pockets has an enormous amount of information on how we use our fingertips (and more).”

The research team hooked smartphone users up to EEG machines to monitor the brain activity of its volunteers. They found that electrical activity in the brain was heightened whenever the thumb, index, and middle fingertips were touched, and that cortex activity in the brain was directly proportional to level of phone activity. Thumb-to-brain responsivity became enhanced, and the more a volunteer engaged with a smartphone the more elevated the cortical activity.

The report does suggest that technology and how we engage with it is reshaping our brain, but this may not be a good thing, since Dr. Ghosh points out that there is a correlation between excessive phone use and motor dysfunction and pain.

Source: Science daily