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Whoa. Our touchscreens are literally changing the shape of our brains

Whoa. Our touchscreens are literally changing the shape of our brains
photo courtesy of shutterstock

Did you know that every time you use your smartphone you actually change your brain? A recent study by the University of Zurich in Switzerland shows that as technology has advanced, our brains have adapted to it.

If you use a smartphone or tablet, you probably have an enlarged somatosensory cortex. Scientists have found physical differences in the shape and function of brains that used touch screens.

Over a 10-day test, the Swiss team monitored 37 volunteers, 27 of them using smartphones and 11 of them using traditional phones with fixed buttons. "Writing in the journal Current Biology, the scientists said those who used smartphones had changed the way their thumbs and brains worked together, with a larger effect seen with those who had used their phones more."

It turns out that using fixed buttons only requires simple hand movements, whereas smartphones require a more complex use of the fingers and thumbs.

Have you ever seen a teenager or young adult using a phone? More than likely, they predominantly use their thumbs to access anything on the screen. By contrast, older adults that have older model phones will be seen using their index finger to access anything on their phone.

The use of smartphones has actually caused an increase in plasticity in the somatosensory cortex of the brain. This is the part of the brain that registers the way touch is used in relation to the body. You can see it in the pinkish area at the top of the brain.


"The part of the brain controlling the sense of touch in the thumbs and fingertips saw much more activity - increasing the connection between them and speeding up reaction time and sensitivity."

A similar change is observed in musicians. However, this change is not necessarily for the better. Scientists have linked an elastic somatosensory cortex with chronic pain, spasms and movement disorders.

"Worryingly, there is some evidence linking excessive phone use with motor dysfunctions and pain. More research is still needed to unravel the consequences of the altered sensory processing linked to the use of touchscreen devices."

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Source: Daily Mail
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