According to a new study, repetitive movements of the finger on a smartphone touch screen actually increases activity within the brain. As noted by researchers, the sensory processing area of the brain changes. Brain plasticity, which is what allows neuronal networks in the brain to conform to changes in the environment or body, is what finger movements involve.
As stated by Arko Ghosh, co-author of the study published in the most recent Current Biology journal and neuroscientist at Switzerland’s University of Zurich, smartphones help researchers to better understand how everyday functions of life shape and mold brains of normal people.
Everything pertaining to the body’s function is mapped out in a region of the brain known as the somatosensory cortex. This area receives signals coming from sensory receptors in organs and on the skin. Therefore, if something is touched with the fingertip the cortex that connects to those places is what receives a signal.
However, these same areas have the ability to adapt easily and become far more sensitive when a part of the body is used repeatedly. Researchers of the study wanted to determine if people who use touch screens of smartphones experience any change within the cortex.
In order to conduct the study, researchers used an EEG to measure electrical activity in the brain as a response to touch specific to the thumb, middle, and index fingertips. Of participants, 26 of 37 used a touch screen on a smartphone whereas the others had older model cell phones. Researchers discovered that activity in the brain area linked with fingertips was more active in participants with touch screens.
In addition, it was found that the change within the processing of sensory information had a close link to not only frequency but also the level of intensity for people using their fingers, primary the tip of the thumb.
In the publication, researchers wrote that interestingly, the tip of the thumb was sensitive to daily fluctuations in the use of the cell phone. For instance, the shorter amount of time between extensive phone usage the greater the potential for the cortical to be associated.
In simple terms, the findings of this study indicate that repetitive finger movements on a touch screen have the ability to reshape sensory processing. This means that overall, the brain is continually being shaped by the way in which people use modern digital technology.
With this study, researchers agree that a touchscreen on a smartphone can actually change the way the brain and thumb work together.