Brains and Thumbs Working in Unison: How Smartphone Usage Has Changed the Way we Live

Opposable thumbs, take them for granted but they’re at the root of many of our advances and what makes humans the master species of technology. The use of tools has spread from us being able to grasp a spear and hurdle it through the air, now being able to type out a long-winded text to someone.

We’re tapping glass at an incredible rate on all kinds of touchscreen devices. New studies have found that this new widespread mode of communication has changed the way our brains interact with our thumbs. You can be typing while driving in your vehicle, sitting at home or in the office and during all times of the day.

Everyday Smartphone Usage

A study by Arko Ghosh at the University of Zurich published a paper in Current Biology detailing the use. People on average use their smartphones around five hours of the day. This is a third of the time they’re awake. That comes to about 85 times of checking the phone.

Ghosh was surprised at the amount of changes smartphone use brought to the plasticity of the brain. Ghosh said, “I was also struck by how much of the inter-individual variations in the fingertip-associated brain signals could be simply explained by evaluating the smartphone logs.”

Humans are using their fingers in ways that were never before seen in the timeline of human history and this has many implications in the brain.

Driving Usage

As much as law enforcement and others wish for people not to text and drive, it’s a simple reality of driving. There is an immense amount of time doing repetitive movements with our fingers tapping the screen all day. This doesn’t stop when we’re operating a motor vehicle.

Instead of legislating this and trying to punish trying to be ever connected, certain automakers are working on integrating the need for safe connection to coincide with driving.  Take the Jeep Compass for example; utilizing Bluetooth technology they have paired usual traditional finger tapping with voice automated controls.

Users are spending less time looking down at the screen and tapping away and being connected in more efficient ways.

Long-term Brain Effects

Authors of other various papers have proposed that cortical sensory processing has been shaped tremendously by digital technology. Otherwise, more simply put, it’s changing the way we think on a deeper level. A lot of these changes are benefits that can help us out in the long run. But there is also some negative aspects that must be dealt with in any major form of change. This includes carpal tunnel syndrome and other factors that might change.

Some may find the immense time we spend on smartphones too time-consuming and could be reserved for other more important ventures.  Studies show that people underestimate the time spent on smartphones. By keeping this in mind, we can utilize the benefits smart devices afford us and change our brains, while also knowing how it changes the way we live.

Julian Mitchell is known as the gadget geek amongst friends. He’s the guy they call when they have laptop problems, need recommendations on buying a new smartphone or TV or need to borrow a cable!

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