MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - We experience that urge every day to answer a text message as soon as we hear it on our phone. But what actually happens to the brain when we hear that notification?
Dr. Katharine Nelson, Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota says "It's an internal battle that everybody is going to have."
She says a bundle of nerves in the central part of the brain, called the nucleus accumbens, urges us to take action. She says it's the same part of the brain that controls the "fight or flight" responses.
"When we have that alert that there's some social or other interaction that ties us into our community our brain tells us that there is potentially a life or death threat or reward associated on the other side of that," said Dr. Nelson.
She says it's the outer region of the brain, the more evolved part of the brain, which helps control our judgment telling us not to pick up the phone.
If there's any indication, we should not text while driving, Dr. Bill Tatum of Mayo Clinic may have found it.
During routine monitoring of epilepsy patients, his team in Jacksonville, Florida accidentally found that brainwaves slowed down in the front and central parts of the brain of some patients when they were texting.
His team is still doing research to determine whether this brain activity represents distraction or concentration. They're also looking to find out why some patients experience this change, and others do not.
"There are many more questions that need to be answered yet before we attach a clinical significance to it but one thing remains is that we're able to see a change when people text on their smartphone. There are changes that occur when we text that now we really can’t ignore and I think we should pay attention to," said Dr. Bill Tatum, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.
If you're having difficult keeping your eyes off of your phone when you drive, Dr. Nelson suggests putting a barrier between yourself and your device. For example, put your phone in a glove compartment or trunk.