Typing With Our Thumbs Changes Our Brains

TechCrunch Columnist: "What We Tap Affects How We Think"

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We’ve talked a bit about how mobile learning makes you smarter than you think both here and here.

Now, there is further evidence for that theory.

Researchers at the University of Zurich say that typing with our thumbs is changing the way our brains work.

The results suggest to the researchers that repetitive movements over the smooth touchscreen surface reshape sensory processing from the hand, with daily updates in the brain’s representation of the fingertips. And that leads to a pretty remarkable idea: “We propose that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by personal digital technology,” (Dr. Arko) Ghosh and his colleagues write.

Previous neuroscience studies have shown how repetitive movements affect the brains of musicians and video gamers.

“For example, in violinists, the brain area representing the fingers that play the instrument is larger than in non-musicians,” notes BBC health editor Michelle Roberts.

The researchers say that, besides these expert groups, “smartphones present an opportunity to understand how regular life shapes the brains of regular people.”

The brain is regarded as a scientific mystery. Touting the economic and scientific success of the Human Genome Project, President Obama announced during his 2013 State of the Union address a campaign to map the brain. The BRAIN Initiative has been projected to cost roughly $3 billion over the course of a decade, and funding only began to be distributed in September 2014. Hopefully, future research – both from Dr. Ghosh and the BRAIN Initiative – will reveal more about the brain.

For now, though, we’ll be content to use our smartphones like we have been, both in our work lives and our personal lives.

And to answer a pertinent question…

“Does this mean you’ll get a super brain if you keep tapping away on your iPhone? Probably not,” writes TechCrunch’s John Biggs, “but it sounds like what we tap affects how we think.”

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Adam Bockler is the communications manager for Float, responsible for all of Float's marketing initiatives. In addition, Adam is a certified DDP Yoga Level 1 instructor, a certified personal trainer, a martial arts instructor, and a graduate of the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy.

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On March 16, 2015
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