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Research links cell phone use to growth of horns (yes horns) in humans

By Andrea Ayres
Daniel Radcliffe and Alex Zahara in Horns (2013)

It's hard to find another piece of technology that has changed our daily life more than the cell phone. It turns out all that being glued to our phones has changed more than just the way we pass our free time. A pair of Australian researchers have observed bone spurs growing out of the back of people's skulls to accommodate our incessant need to be connected. Yes, we're talking horns here, people. Horns!

The study, featured in Nature Research's Scientific Reports, was conducted at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, by David Shahar & Mark G.L. Sayers in 2018. The researchers sought to expand existing knowledge about the appearance of bone spurs at the occipital squama (aka where your skull and neck meet up). They did this by looking at the x-rays of 1,200 people from the Queensland area from ages 18-86. It was previously believed these spurs only occurred in adults, but what the researchers found shocked them.

Radiograph of two male research participants from Scientific Reports

Both the size of the protrusion and the age of those with the bone spurs surprised researchers. The scientific name for these spurs is enlarged external occipital protuberance (EEOP if you want to impress your friends). While it's not uncommon for adults to experience changes to their skeletal structure thanks to decades of repetitive movement, it is less common to see these kinds of changes in young folks. This told the researchers that the strain of daily cell phone use could be causing the skeletons of young folks to adapt in some pretty gnarly ways.

Before you begin checking yourself for horns, know this: They don't occur in everyone. The researchers noted the existence of bone spurs in around 33% of the x-rays they examined. They also noticed that the protrusions occurred more often in males. The researchers believe this is because men are more likely to use their cell phones for longer periods of time for activities like video games, whereas women use them for shorter durations, like to check social media.

Person holds cell phone

If you do happen to notice a little bone spur, don't worry! They cannot harm you (or anyone else). It's simply a signal that your body has had to adapt to the stresses of modern life. This isn't the first time modern technology has been to blame for changes to our bodies. Doctors have warned for years about texting thumb and other musculoskeletal disorders tied to technology use. So what's a horned human to do?

Speaking to The Washington Post about how people can offset the harm caused by technology use, Shara recommends engaging in nightly posture-correcting exercises and observing good ergonomic hygiene. Of course, it might also help us all to put our cell phones down a bit more, too.

Is it bad if we kind of want the horns? What about you? If you notice any spurs in the back of your neck, let us know in the comments!

via The Washington Post