Of Violins and Smartphones

In a recent article, a group of neuroscientists studied the effect of the Smartphones finger and thumb skills on the brain. They found that the frequency of Smartphone usage influences cortical activity. The more the Smartphone had been used in the previous ten days, the greater the signal in the brain. This correlation was the strongest, i.e. proportional, in the area that represented the thumb.

img2T0015The most interesting finding was the comparison between violin players and Smartphone users. “At first glance, this discovery seems comparable to what happens in violinists,” explains the principal investigator of the study. However, the researchers found that how long Smartphone users have owned and used a device does not play a role.” In other words, ‘practicing’ Smartphone does not “improve” the brain. “In the case of violinists, however, the activity in the brain depended on the age at which they started playing.” Maybe this is because

There is a steep learning curve for playing violin that stretches over many years, while the use of Smartphone does not involve much “learning.”

May the educators learn from this study and think twice before they allow their students to use calculators instead of having them climb the steep learning curve of “thinking?”

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