Evaluation of smartphone interactions on drivers' brain function and vehicle control in an immersive simulated environment

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 21;11(1):1998. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81208-5.


Smartphones and other modern technologies have introduced multiple new forms of distraction that color the modern driving experience. While many smartphone functions aim to improve driving by providing the driver with real-time navigation and traffic updates, others, such as texting, are not compatible with driving and are often the cause of accidents. Because both functions elicit driver attention, an outstanding question is the degree to which drivers' naturalistic interactions with navigation and texting applications differ in regard to brain and behavioral indices of distracted driving. Here, we employed functional near-infrared spectroscopy to examine the cortical activity that occurs under parametrically increasing levels of smartphone distraction during naturalistic driving. Our results highlight a significant increase in bilateral prefrontal and parietal cortical activity that occurs in response to increasingly greater levels of smartphone distraction that, in turn, predicts changes in common indices of vehicle control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Automobile Driving
  • Brain / physiology
  • Distracted Driving / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Smartphone*
  • Text Messaging