Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smartphone thumb skills are altering our brains

29.12.2014

Typing, sweeping, swiping – Smartphone users have nimble thumbs and forefingers. However, it is not only finger dexterity that the daily use of mobile technology develops. As researchers from the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg demonstrate, it also alters the brain. The cortex quickly adapts to these repetitive finger movements, proving once again just how plastic our brains are.

Every region of the body – from the toes to the jaw and tongue – has a particular processing area in our emotional center in the brain, the somatosensory cortex. These areas are flexible and can change. In the case of violinists, for instance, the area representing the fingers that guide the instrument is larger than in other people.

Arko Ghosh from the Institute of Neuroinformatics of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich decided to investigate the impact that the finger dexterity of Smartphone users has on the brain and discovered that the day-to-day plasticity of the human brain could be researched based on our Smartphone usage. And with their recordings the digital devices provide a fertile source of data for this behavior. “Smartphones offer us an opportunity to understand how normal life shapes the brains of ordinary people,” explains Ghosh.

Teaming up with colleagues from the University of Fribourg, he studied the activation in the sensorimotor cortex, which is triggered by finger movements. The scientists used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the cortical brain activity in 37 right-handed people, of whom 26 were touchscreen Smartphone users and 11 users of old cellphones. 62 electrodes placed on the test subject’s heads recorded this potential based on movements of the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. The results revealed that the cortical representation in touchscreen Smartphone users differed compared to people with conventional cellphones.

Cortical activity depends on daily usage
Ghosh was also able to demonstrate that the frequency of Smartphone usage influences cortical activity. The more the Smartphone had been used in the previous ten days, the greater the signal in the brain. This correlation was the strongest, i.e. proportional, in the area that represented the thumb.

“At first glance, this discovery seems comparable to what happens in violinists,” explains Ghosh. However, the researchers were able to draw two distinctions: Firstly, how long Smartphone users have owned and used a device does not play a role. In the case of violinists, however, the activity in the brain depended on the age at which they started playing. Secondly, there is a linear connection between the activation in the brain and the most recent use of a Smartphone, while there was no evidence of this for violinists in earlier studies.

“The digital technology we use on a daily basis shapes the sensory processing in our brains – and on a scale that surprised us,” says the neuroscientist in summary.


Literature:
Anne-Dominique Gindrat, Magali Chytiris, Myriam Balerna, Eric Rouiller, Arko Ghosh. Use-dependent cortical processing from fingertips in touchscreen phone users. Current Biology.


Contacts:
Arko Ghosh
Institute of Neuroinformatics
University of Zurich, ETH Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 635 30 52
Email: arko@ini.uzh.ch

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch

Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>