Our brains are adapting to typing with our thumbs

Our brains are adapting to typing with our thumbs
At the Institute of Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich, a study was conducted that showed smartphone users' brains are changing, with more responses seen in the part of the brain associated with the thumb. This is taking place because of all of the thumb-led touchscreen typing that smartphone users are doing. The scientists studied 37 right-handed people, 26 of whom used a touchscreen smartphone. The remaining 11 used older, non-touchscreen handsets. Arko Gosh, one of the scientists involved with the study, said that "Smartphones offer us an opportunity to understand how normal life shapes the brains of ordinary people."

Using electrodes and EEGs to monitor brain activity, the study found that the smartphone users had different responses than the older cellphone users. 62 electrodes placed on the test subject's heads monitored their movement of the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Cortical brain activity in the part of the brain that deals with control of the thumb was higher in smartphone users. And the more time that the smartphone users spent with their devices, the stronger that signal was.

The bottom line is that using your thumb to type on your smartphone is similar to learning how to play the violin. Your brain responds to both tasks by increasing cortical brain activity for the appropriate part of your body. For violinists, the brain has increased cortical activity in the fingers. Among smartphone users, the increased cortical activity is seen in the part of the brain that controls your thumbs.

source: EurekAlert! via TechCrunch



1. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

what? every phone I've ever owned I typed with thumbs. Even the old flip phone.

2. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Nope, I type with index finger.

3. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Well, we will just evolve into a two fingers creature then. Who need all five to type?

6. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Lol... Dr Zoidberg approves!

8. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

BTW there are also other things than just typing on phones / smartphones, where we can use all fingers, like to hold a phone.

4. AlikMalix unregistered

I dont think "thumb typing" or "screen tapping" is going to be around for long... I believe in Siri/GoogleNow/Cortana to take over basic tasks such as texting, searching, writing on our mobile devices... On iMessage for example, after done texting and hitting "Send", she continues to listen and ready to text again, and again, and again - without the need to press any other buttons... but even from lockedscreen with password protection, you can enable texting and taking notes just with a push of a button. I believe it's similar to this on all platforms.... once you embrase the ease of voice assistant - it becomes a necessity

9. quakan

Posts: 1418; Member since: Mar 02, 2011

"Thumb typing" or "screen tapping" will only go away when a new, silent alternative emerges. I rarely use my voice assistant unless I'm driving alone because that's the only time I feel the need and comfort to do so. Non-verbal communication, I believe, will forever exist in some shape or form.

10. AlikMalix unregistered

You're right... I meant as a means of primary/frequent way to input text on to screen... It is for me anyway... I actually rarely tap to text, take notes, or set up reminders/calendar events.. I use voice to handle lots of tasks, like locating my family members, launching apps, or changing settings on my phone...

5. theguy2345

Posts: 1216; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

So what happens when you do something with your thumbs that is more articulate, such as playing videogames? And this is no surprise to me. Your brain will adapts to new habits and such. It is almost like physical learning. Pretty cool if you ask me.

7. SuperAndroid507

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

But not only typing, also some gestures are taking place, I know several people including myself who have involuntarily tried to pinch and zoom small "printed" things. It really happened.

11. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

I'm still not used to typing without any type of tactile feedback. I make many keying errors.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.