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Are smartphones weakening the brain?

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.

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