How messaging affects your brain – which is why you should never text and drive

Smartphone texting changes our brain wave patterns, which could affect cognitive functioning, according to a new study. Also in the news: advice on bathing a baby with eczema and proof of the pregnant waddle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 June, 2016, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2016, 4:21pm

Text messaging with smartphones triggers a new type of brain rhythm

Sending text messages on a smartphone can change the rhythm of your brain waves, according to a study published in Epilepsy & Behaviour, a finding that could have significant implications for brain-computer interfacing, gaming, and driving. “There is now a biological reason why people shouldn’t text and drive – texting can change brain waves,” says lead researcher and neurologist William Tatum of Mayo Clinic.

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Tatum’s research team analysed data from 129 patients who were asked to perform activities such as message texting, finger tapping and audio cellular telephone use in addition to tests of attention and cognitive function. Their brain waves were monitored over a period of 16 months through electroencephalograms (EEGs) combined with video footage.

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A unique “texting rhythm” was found in approximately one in five patients who were using their smartphone to text message. Only text messaging produced the brain rhythm, which was different than any previously described brain rhythm.

The odd texting rhythm compared to other forms of mental stimulation could be caused by the combination of mental activity with motor and auditory-verbal neurological activity. No correlation was found between the presence of a texting rhythm and the patients’ demographic information.

Scientists measure how baby bump changes the way women walk

The “pregnancy waddle” isn’t just a joke – a new study verifies its existence, paving the way for future research on how to make everyday tasks safer and more comfortable for pregnant women. Hiroshima University scientists in Japan used the same 3D motion capture system used on film sets to measure the way pregnant women walk. Eight women were brought into a lab at three different times during their pregnancy, as well as seven non-pregnant women, and infrared cameras were used to record their movements in activities such as rising from a chair or changing direction while walking. After computer analysis of the video, the researchers created virtual models to represent the average pregnant woman.

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The study found that even during the first trimester, pregnant women’s centre of mass is farther forward, they lean backwards while standing, and bend their hips less while walking. This combination can cause a pregnant woman to trip over her toes and more easily lose her balance. Accidental falls cause 10 to 25 per cent of trauma injuries during pregnancy and pregnant women’s risk of falling is the same as women who are 70 years old.

“Prior to our study, there were almost no theory-supported models of the movement of pregnant women. This model is just the start of our goal of contributing to a safe and comfortable life before and after childbirth for pregnant women,” says Yasuyo Sunaga, a doctoral student and first author of the study that will be published in the July edition of the journal Applied Ergonomics.

“We want to find the ideal way for new mothers to carry their baby, what exercises are most effective to return to non-pregnant fitness, and what physical postures are best for work at home or in the office. Now that we have the appropriate data, we hope to apply our model and make it possible to solve these concerns of daily life.”

Daily ‘soak and smear’ or steer clear? How often should you bathe your child with eczema?

Children with eczema can be bathed daily – as long as it’s followed by lots of moisturiser, according to a new article that appears in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

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“A number of medical groups have commented on the general role of bathing in eczema,” says allergist Dr Ivan Cardona, lead author of the paper and ACAAI member. “But they don’t all agree on the best bathing practices ... Because parents are confused, and because they often take their questions to their allergist, we wanted to examine the studies that have been published on the topic, and see if there was agreement on just how often children with eczema should be bathed.”

The finding: limited use of pH-balanced skin cleansers should be part of frequent bathing, along with gentle patting dry, and the immediate application of a moisturiser to “seal” in moisture. This process is known as “soak and smear”.

Eczema involves extremely dry skin, and some medical professionals think infrequent bathing (defined in the article as less than once a day) is the best way to avoid irritating the skin, because the constant evaporation of water can have a drying effect. Infrequent bathing also means less use of soaps which can aggravate eczema.

“The smear part is really the most important element, because unless moisturiser is applied immediately, the skin is likely to dry out even more,” says allergist Dr Neal Jain co-author of the paper.