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25 Dec, 2014 04:15

Use of smartphones alters brain – study

Use of smartphones alters brain – study

A team of Swiss scientists set out on a quest to learn if using smartphones actually makes us smarter. Their study revealed that using a touchscreen device affects a part of the brain that processes touch.

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In a study published in the journal Current Biology, Swiss researchers said that people who use smartphones have an enhanced somatosensory cortex.

The team monitored 37 volunteers over 10 days – 26 of whom used touchscreen phones and 11 of whom used only old cellphones.

Individuals then had an electroencephalogram (EEG), which recorded voltage changes from brain activity. The strongest response was triggered by the thumb, followed by the index and middle fingers.

“By using electroencephalography, we measured the cortical potentials in response to mechanical touch on the thumb, index, and middle fingertips of touchscreen phone users and nonusers [owning only old-technology mobile phones],” the study said.

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Based on the results, the researchers proposed “that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by the use of personal digital technology.”

The significance of the changes in the users’ brains depended on how recent the exposure to screens was, the study clarified.

“The closer they were to their peak usage, in time, the more brain activity they had associated with their thumb,” LA Times quoted the lead investigator of the study and neuroscientist at the University of Zurich, Arko Ghosh, as saying.

“The findings don’t offer a major breakthrough for brain science, per se, but they do represent a clever way to track how the brain adapts during daily activity,” Ghosh said, adding that scientists can now “start extracting which factors matter for the brain, which don’t, what are the drivers of plasticity and what are not?”

“To do this, connecting our digital footprints to brain activity is what we need to do,” he added.

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