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Smartphone Use Supercharges Thumb Control in the Brain

Using a smartphone regularly may train your brain to devote more resources to your thumbs and tapping fingers, according to research by Swiss neuroscientists. The effect is similar to how a piano player or artisan will show increased activity in the brain corresponding to their hands, owing to the adaptability or "plasticity" of the brain. The researchers, led by Anne-Dominique Gindrat, Magali Chytiris and Myriam Balerna at the University of Fribourg, tested the response of the cortex, the brain's outer layer, to touches on the thumb, index and middle fingers of touchscreen users and non-users. They found that users of smartphones had greater cortical responses, and this effect was even directly proportional to the amount of time those users had spent using the phone recently.

"Our results suggest that repetitive movements on the smooth touchscreen reshaped sensory processing from the hand and that the thumb representation was updated daily depending on its use," reads the abstract of the paper, which appears in the Jan. 5 issue of the journal Current Biology. Our brains are "continuously shaped by the use of personal digital technology," the researches said, as they are with all our activities.

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