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Love at the TOP and BOP

So, this NYT opinion piece more or less establishes that the iPhone (or smartphone) is a boyfriend/girlfriend substitute among the rich.

That’s not what is relevant for us. Does this love exist only at the TOP? What parts of the brain would be activated if fMRIs were run on the BOP?

We wouldn’t know an fMRI if it hit us on the face. But we do have video of people talking about their feelings toward their phones: I cannot live without it; losing it is like a death in the family, and so on. Seems the best available evidence, until someone does fMRI.

Earlier this year, I carried out an fMRI experiment to find out whether iPhones were really, truly addictive, no less so than alcohol, cocaine, shopping or video games. In conjunction with the San Diego-based firm MindSign Neuromarketing, I enlisted eight men and eight women between the ages of 18 and 25. Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone.

In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects’ brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia.

But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.

In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.

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