Phantom Vibration Syndrome: Is My Cell Phone Ringing?

by Mita Majumdar on  April 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM Health Watch   - G J E 4
'Thought I was going crazy ... I feel my phone in my pocket vibrating all the time and go to answer it and it isn't ringing', says Chris. Chris is not the only one who feels so.
Phantom Vibration Syndrome: Is My Cell Phone Ringing?
Phantom Vibration Syndrome: Is My Cell Phone Ringing?

Many mobile phone users keep checking their mobile phones thinking it has vibrated, only to find no one has called. This sensory hallucination has a name - Phantom Vibration Syndrome (PVS) and it is a common phenomenon with people carrying pagers or cell phones kept on 'vibrate' mode.

PVS is also called 'ringxiety' most probably because this syndrome is not limited to phones in 'vibrate' mode but include ring tones as well. So much so, Phantom Vibration Syndrome has been named the Macquarie Dictionary's Word for the Year 2012.

Studies are limited in this area since it is a relatively new phenomenon, so scientists are yet to find out what factors may increase the probability of experiencing phantom vibrations or which methods may be effective in dispelling them.

Mobile phones, suggest psychologists, are now recognized as a form of self-expressive identity. The younger generations of mobile phone users personalize their phones to express their identity by decorating their phones and having unique ring-tones.

Secondly, many young people believe use of mobile phones enhances social inclusion by allowing them to remain in contact with friends and peers at all times. They report feeling loved and valued when they receive contact on their mobile phone. Thus, validation from others sort of enhances feelings of self-worth in these people.

Research has shown that people who receive validation from others via their mobile phone become over-involved with their mobile phone in a manner similar to an addictive pattern of behavior.

A survey conducted by Michael B Rothberg and his colleagues suggest that nearly 70 percent of the surveyed medical students and house staff in hospitals experienced phantom vibrations in their cell phones or pagers, and the perceptions were most common among those who used it most often or carried the device in a breast pocket. For some of them, however, changing the location of the device stopped these imaginary vibrations.

So, how does it happen? Researchers believe that phantom vibration syndrome may result from a misinterpretation of incoming sensory signals by the brain. 'In order to deal with the overwhelming amount of sensory input, the brain applies filters based on what it expects to find. In the case of phantom vibrations, because the brain is anticipating a call, it misinterprets sensory input'. The actual stimulus for this sensation could be the pressure from clothing, muscle contractions, or other sensory stimuli.

But it is still not known why some experience PVS while others don't or why some body locations are more PVS-prone than others. What is obvious is that younger generations are more susceptible to PVS. One theory is that neural plasticity (the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections) of younger people makes them more susceptible to imagine vibrations.

According to neuroscientists, plasticity in the brain is at its peak in the growing and learning individuals. Communication between nerve cells changes in response to brain activity generated by new and repeated experiences, in this case, ringing or vibrating of phones. It is very much like the new mothers who constantly imagine they hear their babies crying. In the same way young people addicted to mobile phones think their phone is vibrating or ringing as their brain becomes conditioned to respond to a phone ring or vibration.

Neurological problem or not, maybe in the near future, when phantom vibration syndrome is better understood, there will be a cure for this condition.

Wait, is that my phone vibrating! Nope.

Source: Medindia

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