It is no secret that the use of technology in our every day lives has exploded in the last century. While some people choose to immerse themselves fully in technology, others are more wary. How TVs, computers and smart phones are affecting our health and wellbeing has long been debated. I always remember being told – ‘if you watch too much TV your eyes will go square’. Although there is evidence of this, and my eyes are certainly not square, we do now have increasing evidence of the effect technology has on us, good or bad.

Researchers from the UK and Switzerland have shown the repetitive use of smart phones can affect sensory processing from the hand. Greater brain activity was measured in the study group that used smart phones, as opposed to traditional push-button phones, when their thumb, index or middle-finger were touched. This is a similar response to that seen in string musicians who display greater somatosensory cortical activity in response to touch on the little fingertip compared to people who do not play string instruments.

Do we consider this as a good or bad effect on our health? Increased sensitivity (and consequently brain activity) in our fingers, due to increased use does, initially sound like a good effect. However, it does sound more wholesome when it has been achieved through playing musical instruments rather than repetitive use of a smart phone. I think the message to take home is the use of technology does affect our brains, but other activities traditional activities do too!

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