Texting Sets Off New Type Of Brain Wave


Scientists from the Mayo Clinic and the Rush University Medical Center have uncovered a new waveform type associated with the use of smartphones, which could provide clues as to how the device is able to alter the functions of the nervous system in people.

In a study presented during the 69th annual conference of the American Epilepsy Society (AES), Dr. William Tatum and his colleagues discovered the waveform while conducting video electroencephalography (EEG) evaluations of 129 epilepsy patients from institutions in Illinois and Florida.

The researchers note that the new waveform, which they have named the texting rhythm, is produced when people engage in text messaging using their smartphones. The action creates a frontocentral monomorphic reaction of around 5 to 6 hertz (Hz) theta that is evoked by a stimulus and reproducible.

The occurrence of the waveform, however, is not observable when an individual is engaged in voice calls or other non-texting actions that involve having him or her think, speak or move in one portion of the study.

Tatum and his team said that the texting rhythm may be related to the neural coding that is typically observed in people during non-auditory communication. This makes the new waveform an interesting focus for subsequent studies.

“These findings provide objective evidence that the use of smartphones is capable of altering neurophysiologic function,” Tatumsaid.

“This feature of the EEG could represent a unique brain-technology interface that could further our understanding of the way in which some people communicate without verbal expression or visual cues.”

Tatum added that from a practical point of view, the discovery allows for an objective measure in an individual’s brain that could possibly hinder him or her from carrying out tasks that need an undivided attention such as driving a vehicle.

Other studies presented during the recent AES meeting include using electrodermal (EDA) biofeedback to lessen the frequency of seizures in drug-resistant epilepsy patients, fine tuning machines to adapt to real time data for more accurate seizure detection and using a carbon nanotube-based procedure to help increase the potency of Responsive Neurostimulation System (RNS), an intracerebral neuromodulation treatment for individuals with drug-resistant focal epilepsy.