Research Article| Volume 59, P117-121, June 2016

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Cortical processing during smartphone text messaging


      • Little is known about the effects of personal electronic devices on the brain.
      • Text messaging appears to produce a unique waveform during video-EEG monitoring.
      • Independent cognitive–sensorimotor tasks did not produce similar waveforms.
      • A multi-afferent network and mesial frontal efferent are active during texting.
      • The TR may have implications for industry and health care.



      The objective of this study was to report the EEG features of text messaging using smartphones.


      One hundred twenty-nine patients were prospectively evaluated during video-EEG monitoring (VEM) over 16 months. A reproducible texting rhythm (TR) present during active text messaging with a smartphone was compared with passive and forced audio telephone use, thumb/finger movements, cognitive testing/calculation, scanning eye movements, and speech/language tasks in patients with and without epilepsy. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.


      Twenty-seven patients with a TR were identified from a cohort of 129 (93 female, mean age: 36; range: 18–71) unselected VEM patients. Fifty-three out of 129 patients had epileptic seizures (ES), 74/129 had nonepileptic seizures (NES), and 2/129 were dual-diagnosed. A reproducible TR was present in 27/129 (20.9%) specific to text messaging (p < 0.0001) and present in 28% of patients with ES and 16% of patients with NES (p = NS). The TR was absent during independent tasks and audio cellular telephone use (p < 0.0001). Age, gender, epilepsy type, MRI results, and EEG lateralization in patients with focal seizures were unrelated (p = NS).


      Our results suggest that the TR on scalp EEG represents a novel technology-specific neurophysiological alteration of brain networks. We propose that cortical processing in the contemporary brain is uniquely activated by the use of PEDs.


      These findings have practical implications that could impact industry and research in nonverbal communication.


      cEEG (continuous EEG), ES (epileptic seizures), NES (nonepileptic seizures), PEDs (personal electronic devices), TR (texting rhythm), VEM (video-EEG monitoring)


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