We live in an era where everyone has a smartphone in hand. Cellphones have invariably wormed into our live and have become largely prevalent, people scramble to debate if this particular technology is an asset or a liability.
With health officials issuing warnings of the potential threat of ‘text-neck’ epidemic or disruption of sleep cycles with e-readers, researchers of the University of Zürich, which is situated in Switzerland have come forward with a study which suggests that using touch sensitive smart phones actually enhance our tactile abilities and bring about changes in the somatosensory cortex area of the brain.
From past researches, we know that there is huge potential in the brain to adapt to changes. People who play the piano or the violin have shown great enhancement of the area which controls the hands, most importantly the area which controls the fingers.
The lead author, Arko Ghosh wanted to determine changes in the brains of people who used touchscreen cellphones. They recruited 37 people, all right-handed. 26 of these people used touchscreen smartphones while 11 used phones that were old-fashioned with keys. The brain activity was monitored through electroencephalograph (EEG).
The results showed that people who used smartphones, had greater activity in the somatosensory regions of the brain, while people who used phones with keypad had lower activity of the same region. The greatest stimulation was attributed to increased thumb use. Initially the research team compared the results to those studies which showed stimulation of the brain through use of violin but later on they pointed out that changes in the cortex in violin use was age related where as this was not seen in touchscreen users. Also people who used their touchscreen devices avidly in the days prior to the assessment were shown to have the greatest activity, regardless of when they started using it.
“Our results suggest that repetitive movements on the smooth touchscreen reshaped sensory processing from the hand and that the thumb representation was updated daily depending on its use. We propose that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by the use of personal digital technology,“ said Ghosh.