© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate Today Banner
Health & Wellness

Are smartphones weakening the brain?

smartphones.jpg
WBFO file photo
/

Many of us share an intimate bond with our smartphones. In many instances, not an hour passes without some interaction. It’s our loyal companion waiting beside our bed at night, ready to provide a wake-up call at the designated moment. It’s a navigator, guiding us through territory unknown. It’s a constant source of information.

But some researchers warn that an over-reliance on smartphones is weakening brain function.

A study from Stanford University found that media multitaskers – people who frequently bounce between checking email, texting, and visiting social media sites – had difficulty maintaining focus and sorting key information from background noise.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Southern California suggest that smartphone use is restricting the brain’s default mode – a period of rest when the mind is free to wander, connecting emotionally- relevant thoughts. Often times these rests are replaced with scrolling through social media, blocking out the brain’s default mode

And then there’s research conducted at McGill University in Canada that concluded that motorists who relied on GPS-type navigation features had less activity in a key region of the brain that deals with memory.

WBFO hit the streets to find out what local residents think about the recent research. Grenauer of Buffalo believes smartphones are creating a disconnection in his life.

“ [When I] Go out with my friends to the bar, three out of the five friends -- four out of the five friends -- are sitting on their phone. Or even if you come over and hang out -- you’re watching a movie, having a couple beers, everybody’s on their phone. You’re not talking anymore, you’re always scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, or something. You’re not having human interaction.”

Gruenauer believes smartphone users should limit their screen time, a practice that Buffalo resident Jeremy Maxwell has already implemented.

“I’ve actually weened myself over the last year or so, pay less attention to social media, post less,” said Maxwell. “I did feel the gap in my normal life.”

Azrael Essex said she suspects an over-reliance on smartphones creates a level of social axiety in some people. Essex said it’s evident even as one walks down the street.

“Now people don’t even look at each other,” said the Buffalo resident.

Related Content
  • Apple's iPads and rival devices are finding a happy home in hospitals and medical practices. But as with driving, distractions are threatening safety — in this case, patient safety.
  • Psychologist Jean Twenge has observed dramatic shifts in behavior among children who go through adolescence with smartphones. They're spending less time with friends and reporting greater anxiety.