Smartphone Thumbing Is Changing Our Brains

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Using smartphones changes the way thumbs and brains work together, according to a report in the journal Current Biology.

More touchscreen use translates directly into greater brain activity when the thumbs and other fingertips are touched, the study shows.

“I was really surprised by the scale of the changes introduced by the use of smartphones,” says Arko Ghosh of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

While neuroscientists have long studied brain plasticity in experts, such as musicians and online gamers, smartphones present an opportunity to understand how life shapes the brains of most people.

The researchers found the electrical activity in the brains of smartphone users was enhanced when three fingertips were touched.

The results suggest that repetitive movements over the smooth touchscreen surface reshape sensory processing from the hand.

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