Use of a Smartphone shapes the part of the brain that controls our finger movement in a similar way as learning to play violin, reveals a new study.
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.
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.
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.
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.