It's said that taxi drivers' brains have increased growth in certain areas from navigating around cities. Is increasing smartphone use having a similar effect on other parts of our brains?
There seems to be evidence that taxi drivers develop a larger area of brain used for spatial memory, musicians for reading music, etc. it makes sense that our brains would develop to give more area to new skills such as gesture control.
Key things to remember are: 1.) our brains are malleable and 2.) neurons which fire together wire together.
It's been known for a long time that violin players or pitchers in baseball have an altered map of the primary motor and sensory cortex that corresponds with the greater, more specialized use. But there's probably lots of neurological real estate for the fingers to begin with.
The thing that made the biggest difference to my brain was probably having access to a spellcheck on computers. Before I had a computer, my spelling was terrible because I'd always refused to waste any of my time looking words up in dictionaries - I didn't care which which ridiculous spelling was required for which word and even devised my own spelling system so that I could write things for my own use without having to worry about it (though it was also designed for multilingual use).
I was also a terrible speller, and still not that great but much better than in university, mainly thanks to spell check and the immediate feed back you get. The problem with being a bad speller is if you write a word incorrectly over and over, it starts to look right unless someone or something corrects you. It often seems that people are bad at predicting the effect technology will have. In the beginning, they said spell check would make everyone bad spellers, because they would become "dependent" on it, but I think it has helped because of that instant feedback after an error. In the same way, I've heard that texting will destroy literacy because of short forms, abbreviations, etc. but given that a lot of people didn't write at all, I can only see it helping.
For most people, I suspect the ability to spell will take a big hit before long as speech-user-interfaces become the norm and virtual keyboards disappear (well, they'll still be there for times when privacy is vital, but most people will rarely use them). Their lesser ability won't show up though except when they need to write notes on paper. It would be interesting to see what impact speech recognition has on writing and on thought. I'm sure my writing would be quite different if I had to use a typewriter as it would make it impossible for me to edit things a hundred times to knock things into shape, but I suspect if I was to shift to speech input it would make little difference, although I'd be completely unable to work that way in any situation where someone might be listening in as I don't want anyone to hear anything other than the final polished version. David Cooper, Tue, 24th Feb 2015
I simply couldn't do it, but I have a hard time explaining why. It's as if the person who talks is just a slightly different version of me than the person who writes. They'd have to collaborate and it would slow everything down. But my brother uses voice recognition all the time and he loves it. cheryl j, Wed, 25th Feb 2015
Doing anything changes your brain, obviously. If you do it enough, you can transfer a conscious action into an autonomic response - like driving a car. It's entirely reasonable (though pretty remarkable) that any area of the brain that gets a lot of work, may expand as it rewires.
It makes me wonder about handedness. We tend to think of lefties as just opposite versions of right handed people, but most of them aren't, and use their right hand for certain things like cutting with scissors or throwing. Maybe there was a slight advantage to having certain fingers that are more dexterous on different hands. cheryl j, Wed, 25th Feb 2015
Left-handed people using their right hand with scissors is almost always because of the design of scissors and not because they prefer to use them in their right hand - the natural way the thumb pushes left as it goes down helps to push the blades together, but if you use right-handed scissors in your left hand you'll find that it pushes the blades apart instead, so they don't cut well. David Cooper, Wed, 25th Feb 2015
They did have lefty scissors in school but you had to hunt through the whole coffee can to find a pair so maybe I just gave up and learned to use the regular ones. Sort of like using the mouse right handed because everyone at work would get mad at you for switching it around. But even though lap tops have a track pad in the center, I still do it right handed.
It's just part of life becomes faster. There are many other things we need to do, and more people won't spend on the smartphones too much time. Our brains have been running in order to live or work or study or any other things.