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How does the brain process smartphone interactions?

Smartphone behaviors are so common but how does the brain generate this behavior? The Cognition in the digital environment laboratory (CODELAB) investigated the brain activity surrounding smartphone interactions with the help of Artificial Intelligence. According to their research, the brain fluidly switches between purposeful touchscreen touches and purposeless thumb movements while engaged on the smartphone

Ruchella Kock, Enea Ceolini, Lysanne Groenewegen & Arko Ghosh
15 March 2023
Neural processing of goal and non-goal-directed movements on the smartphone

Summary - Neural processing of goal and non-goal-directed movements on the smartphone

The discrete behavioral events captured on the smartphone touchscreen may help unravel real-world neural processing. We find that neural signals (EEG) surrounding a touchscreen event show a distinctly contralateral motor preparation followed by visual processing, and the consolidation of information. We leveraged these events in conjunction with kinematic recordings of the thumb and an artificial neural network to separate highly similar movements according to whether they resulted in a smartphone touch (goal-directed) or not (non-goal-directed). Despite their kinematic similarity, the signatures of neural control of movement and the post-movement processing were substantially dampened for the non-goal-directed movements, and these movements uniquely evoked error-related signals. We speculate that these apparently unnecessary movements are common in the real world and although inconsequential the brain provides limited motor preparation and tracks the action outcome. These findings help create a new approach to study brain functions critical to real world behaviors in health and disease. The neural signals surrounding discrete smartphone events can enable the study of neural processes that are difficult to capture in conventional laboratory-based tasks.

Smartphone related potentials (smRPs)

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