Smartphone overuse bad for your hand

Smartphone overuse bad for your hand

London: Frequent smartphone users are more likely to have an enlarged median nerve and have their hand function and pinch strength impaired, says a new study.

However, the study, published online in Muscle & Nerve, doesn’t clearly link heavy smartphone use to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), reported.

“The exact clinical relevance of the study findings is not known. Future studies are warranted to address the clinical relevance of median nerve enlargement in high smartphone users,” lead author Esra Erkol Inal from Suleyman Demirel University, Turkey was quoted as saying.

“Still, youngsters should be aware of the dangers of these pocket devices,” she added.

A hand-held smartphone compels the user to engage in repetitive flexion/extension of the wrist and to use their thumb to text, movements that are involved in the etio-pathophysiology of CTS, the researchers said.

Research suggests that students now typically spend more than three hours a day texting, emailing, scheduling, and browsing the internet on their mobile phone.

The current study included 102 university students, 66 of whom used a single-hand-held smartphone and 36 of whom didn’t use a smartphone.

Researchers divided participants into three groups according to their level of smartphone use: nonusers, low users, and high users.

They based this use according to the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS). There are no official diagnostic criteria for smartphone addiction, but based on Internet addiction, it’s defined as the overuse of smartphones to the extent that it disturbs the users’ daily lives, Inal said.

“It has been reported that smartphone addiction has many features of addiction, such as tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, preoccupation, mood dysregulation, craving, and loss of control,” she said.

Students in the study with an SAS score of 84 (the median score) or greater were considered high users and those with a score under 84 were considered low users.

Researchers carried out several functional evaluations. The researchers found that the median nerve ratios were significantly higher in participants with high smartphone use compared with nonusers.

Ultrasonography also showed the enlargement of FPL tendon in all groups, but most markedly in high smartphone users. This suggests overuse, said Inal.

“Clinicians should be careful about the median nerve and the flexor pollicis longus tendon when examining the hand of someone who is a frequent smartphone user,” she said.

The study also showed that SAS scores correlated with pinch strength. Pain in the thumb rose with an increase in SAS score.

It might be possible to prevent the repetitive flexion/extension of the wrist and lessen the enlargement of the medial nerve by using a smartphone with two hands instead of one. Putting the keys at the top of the smartphone may also lessen these risks.

“But we think that duration of daily smartphone use is the most important factor affecting the median nerve, pinch strength, and hand function,” Inal said.

Google Maps Now Shows Real-Time Transit Information in Select Regions


While Google Maps already showed us the scheduled metros, bus routes along with the time of arrival for each bus and other public transit information since 2007, it has now been given the ability to deliver real-time public transit information in select cities and countries on Android.

From Tuesday, users will see a slightly revamped interface that will let users know at a glance at how long they will have to wait, and alternative options. The new Google Maps’ real-time transit info however is initially being rolled out to six regions, and will give live arrival timings of buses, trains, and subway systems. The feature will help users know when the next bus or metro would arrive in case they missed the previous one, and, also sends alerts for cancelled routes.

Google has brought on board over 25 new partners in the UK, the Netherlands, Budapest, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle for the initial rollout of real-time transit info, in addition to the over 100 partners it already has worldwide. Google has not yet detailed when it would roll out the real-time transit information to other regions in the world, or for the iOS app.

The search giant says it offers public transit information in 18,000 cities and towns in 64 countries across six continents. In addition, the transit feature by Google is being powered by the help of over 6,000 transit authorities, which cover 2.5 million train stations, bus stops and ferry terminals across the globe.

The Mountain View firm at Google I/O 2015 recently said it would soon be bringingoffline search to its Google Maps app. The app will also feature complete voice-based turn-by-turn navigation while in offline mode. Both features will be made available sometime later this year. The new offline features announced for Google Maps are aimed mainly for “emerging markets” where mobile Internet coverage is spotty, and data charges expensive, as navigation via GPS is independent of mobile networks.

US President Obama Signs Bill Reforming Government Surveillance Program

President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday legislation passed by Congress earlier in the day reforming a government surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans’ telephone records.Reversing security policy in place since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the bill ends a system exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The spy agency collected and searched records of phone calls looking for terrorism leads but was not allowed to listen to their content.

Passage of the USA Freedom Act, the result of an alliance between Senate Democrats and some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, was a victory for Obama, a Democrat, and a setback for Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After the Senate voted 67-32 on Tuesday to give final congressional approval to the bill, Obama used his Twitter account, @POTUS, to say he was glad it had passed. “I’ll sign it as soon as I get it,” the tweet said.

Before voting, senators defeated three amendments proposed by Republican leaders after they reversed themselves and ended efforts to block it. The House of Representatives passed the measure overwhelmingly last month.

In the end, 23 Senate Republicans voted for the Freedom Act, joining 196 who backed it in the House. In a rift between Republicans, who control both chambers, House leaders had warned that amendments proposed by McConnell would be a “challenge” for the House that could delay the bill.

A federal appeals court on May 7 ruled the collection of “metadata” illegal.

The new law would require companies such as Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, to collect and store telephone records the same way that they do now for billing purposes.

But instead of routinely feeding U.S. intelligence agencies such data, the companies would be required to turn it over only in response to a government request approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Freedom Act is the first major legislative reform of U.S. surveillance since Snowden’s revelations two years ago this month led to debate over how to balance Americans’ distrust of intrusive government with fears of terrorist attacks.

Along with the phone records program, two other domestic surveillance programs authorized under the 2001 USA Patriot Act have been shut down since Sunday.

Missed deadline
After Republican Senator Rand Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, blocked McConnell’s efforts to keep them going temporarily, the Senate missed a deadline to extend legal authorities for certain data collection by the NSA and the FBI.

McConnell made an unusually strong last-ditch argument against the Freedom Act after his amendments failed. “It surely undermines American security by taking one more tool from our war fighters, in my view, at exactly the wrong time,” he said in a Senate speech.

Telephone companies had been less than thrilled about potentially overhauling their record-keeping systems to become the repositories of surveillance records.

Together with civil liberties groups, they opposed specific requirements for how long they must retain any data, which were proposed in some amendments that were later defeated. A Verizon official, for instance, spoke in support of the Freedom Act, without such a mandate, in a Senate hearing last year.

After the vote, Microsoft Corp General Counsel Brad Smith praised Congress. “Today’s vote by the Senate on the USA Freedom Act will help to restore the balance between protecting public safety and preserving civil liberties,” Smith said in a statement.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a leading Senate privacy advocate, voted for the Freedom Act. He pledged that he and his allies would continue pushing for more limits on surveillance.

“This has always been about reforming intelligence policies that do not make America safer and threaten our liberties,” Wyden told reporters.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the Freedom Act was a milestone, but did not go far enough. “The passage of the bill is an indication that comprehensive reform is possible, but it is not comprehensive reform in itself,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the bulk telephone data collection system had been shut down since shortly before 8 p.m. (midnight GMT) on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how soon the NSA program would be restarted. The Freedom Act allows it to continue for six months while the new system is established.

The White House said the administration would move quickly to get it up and running again.

With Obama’s signing of the bill, the executive branch will have to apply to the surveillance court for reauthorization.

Instagram Takes Steps to Open Platform to Advertisers

Instagram said on Tuesday that it is taking steps to make its ads available to all types of businesses, not just hand-selected brands.Starting in June, Instagram this year is rolling out to advertisers the ability to more closely direct campaigns by zip code and other data sets like interests in the same ways that brands can target consumers on its parent company Facebook Inc.

In addition it will let advertisers link to external websites or app stores with buttons such as “shop now,” “sign up,” “learn more,” and “install now.”

Currently, it works closely with only a handful of brands like Levi’s, Banana Republic and Ben & Jerry’s. Ads can only be targeted by gender, age and country.

“The quality of the ad experience remains a very important point of differentiation for us,” Instagram’s global head of business and brand development James Quarles said in an interview.

The move to widen and sharpen the ad platform is a significant one for the popular mobile photo app that has more than 200 million daily active users across the world. It has carefully allowed advertising on its platform starting a year and a half ago.Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012.

Quarles added that making ads more relevant and delivering them to the right target is the next stage of development.

Still, by opening up to all advertisers, including hundreds of thousands of small businesses, Instagram risks losing quality control of campaigns and potentially irking users.

“People are used to seeing beautiful brand imagery in their feeds,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer. “Now they will see some direct response ads and we all know the baggage that comes with that.”

Still, Williamson expects a “strong ramp-up” from advertisers long eager to do more with the platform.

Facebook does not break out Instagram revenue but Pivotal Research estimates it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Kfir Gavrieli, co-founder and CEO of Tieks, an online-only retailer known for its ballet flats, said it’s currently “clumsy and awkward” for an Instagram user to get from a post to a landing page.

“The shop now button,” he said, “will be much more seamless.”

Study Finds Why We Browse Facebook When We Feel Like Taking a Break


Scientists claim to have found why social networks such as Facebook are such a popular diversion for people who feel like taking a break.

Even when we are resting, our brains are preparing us to be social, according to a new study by psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study sheds light on why social networks such as Facebook are such a popular diversion for people who feel like taking a break, researchers said.

“The brain has a major system that seems predisposed to get us ready to be social in our spare moments,” said Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences.

The research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, shows that during quiet moments, the brain is preparing to focus on the minds of other people – or to “see the world through a social lens,” said Lieberman.

In experiments at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, the researchers showed photos with captions to 21 people, and tracked their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

Most of the photos showed people performing actions in a social setting and expressing a certain emotion. In one set of 40 photographs, images were paired with captions that reflected the person’s mental state.

The second set of photos had identical images, but with captions that merely described what the person was doing – “He is resting his head” or “She is looking to her side.”

A third set of images depicted a number accompanied by a simple mathematical equation.

Participants were asked to judge whether the captions accurately expressed what the images showed.

The same regions of the brain that were active during the brief times that subjects were not looking at photos were also active when the participants were considering the photos with captions about people’s emotions.

But those areas of the brain were not active when the participants were viewing the cards with captions about the person’s physical activity and those with the math equations.

Sometimes, a part of the brain called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex was more active during the rest period immediately before participants were asked to look at photos.

In those cases, the participants made significantly faster judgements if the next photo they saw presented a statement about the person’s mental state.

The findings suggest that the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex might turn on during dreams and rest in order to process our recent social experiences and update our assumptions and understanding of the social world, Lieberman said.

So although Facebook might not have been designed with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex in mind, the social network is very much in sync with how our brains are wired, he said.

“When I want to take a break from work, the brain network that comes on is the same network we use when we’re looking through our Facebook timeline and seeing what our friends are up to,” said Lieberman.