For nearly 10 years, Australians have used smart devices such as phones and tablets. With nearly 15 million devices in Australia, we now have the ability to not only make calls, but to email, connect with others through social media, shop online, play games and research information on the move; but how is this relatively new technology affecting our brain?
According to Neilsen, the average Australian spends around 35 hours a month thumbing smart phones, and this is steadily increasing. Various scientific studies suggest our love of being connected may also be affecting brain function. Here are 5 ways your smartphone may be changing your brain.
Smart phones give us ‘lazy brain’ syndrome
A study published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal states reliance on smart phones can inhibit our brain’s need for critical analysis, as so much information is easily available at the touch of a button. Therefore, we may be automatically accepting information presented online is valid and correct, rather than relying on our own opinions and cognitive processes. Obviously critical thinking and problem solving is a skill humans are especially proficient at, so it would be a huge loss to have something as trivial as a Smartphone begin to diminish this.
Thumbing alters our brainwaves
Smart devices are often held in one or both hands, and operated primarily with one or both thumbs. So what is the significance of this and how could it affect our brain? According to Heather Ramsey from knowledgenuts.com, the repetitive movement of our fingers and thumbs is rewiring the way our brain works. Similar to violinists who constantly use their fingers to play, certain areas of the brain enlarge to accommodate the fast thumbing of digital enthusiasts.
Smartphones put us off balance
It’s a daily occurrence for many of us to use our smart phones while walking. However, according to a study from BMC Neuroscience, the dual task of walking and thinking with our smart phones can be detrimental to our overall awareness, especially for older adults. In their study, participants played a game on their smart phone while walking. The results showed the older generation did not have the same ability as their younger counterparts to multitask as their walking pace slowed significantly. Additionally, the test showed smart phone use on the move can lead to poor posture.
Light at night is affecting our brain
Do you check your smartphone for Facebook messages, Instagram or catch up on the news before you go to bed? How about the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep? Studies say this is detrimental to your health in a number of ways. Your brain is stimulated by the blue light emitting from the smartphone screens, inhibiting the release of melatonin, a hormone which would normally send you off to sleep. According to techinsider.io, Lack of sleep could cause all types of potential health problems, including:
- Harms our eyes – According to Bluelightexposed.com, science is unsure whether parts of the eye could be damaged through the exposure of the bright blue light that radiates from the smartphone screens. This article from The Conversation certainly seeks to dispel this ‘myth’, though others believe the jury is still out.
- Memory impairment – The disruption of sleep can cause you to forget information or become distracted from tasks. You can become inefficient when thinking, meaning tasks take longer to complete. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to a neurotoxin buildup which can also hinder learning ability. Additionally, according to this article from WebMD, it’s also harder to consolidate memories without sleep.
- Depression – It has been shown blue lights from the smartphone suppresses melatonin levels, which in turn can lead to depression. This study from “Sleep and Depression” in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry states that 90% of patents with depression complain of poor sleep quality.
- Obesity –According to Harvard University there is a growing body of research that links poor sleep with obesity. This is perhaps due to people being too tired to exercise or eating more as they spend more hours awake. Additionally, smartphone light could also disrupt hormones that control your appetite, which could lead to being overweight.
Smartphones can cause bad posture
According to Surgical Technology International, people spend between 2 to 4 hours a day with their heads tilted over their smart phones to read and text. Some people even tilt their necks to hold their smart phone between the ear and shoulder blade. Human bodies are not evolved for this type of consistent movement so it can cause an increase in pressure along the neck, shoulders and spine, which leads to poor posture. It’s common for us to look down to read information on our phone, but continuous abuse can lead to misalignment, back issues and even surgery.
Checking Facebook, Instagram, responding to emails, reading articles and playing games on your smartphone too often may have negative health effects. Though much study has already been done, the next few years will undoubtedly reveal more finding on how smartphones are interacting and even changing our brain function.