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This is your brain on texting — and why you shouldn't walk at the same time

TODAY's Jeff Rossen investigated what happens to people's brains when they text and walk.

by Jeff Rossen and Conor Ferguson / / Source: TODAY
TODAY's Jeff Rossen investigated what happens to people's brains when they text and walk.TODAY

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It's no secret that many people walk around with their eyes glued to their phones.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. last year, and police across the country are increasingly concerned about the dangers of walking while texting.

Get Jeff Rossen's new book, "Rossen to the Rescue," here.

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TODAY's Jeff Rossen investigated what happens to people's brains when they text and walk.

A group of TODAY viewers participated in an experiment to see how well they could perform the two tasks. The results? Not so good. Participants went diagonal inside a crosswalk, nearly ran into a rock, almost tripped over a curb and more. Most didn't look up while crossing the street.

The findings back up existing research: One study has shown that 60 percent of texters can't walk in a straight line.

 A group of TODAY viewers participated in an experiment to see how well they could perform the two tasks TODAY

Rossen turned to a neuroscientist in New York City for a deeper explanation.

Using an EEG headset, David Putrino, Ph.D., director of rehabilitation innovation at Mount Sinai Health System, monitored Rossen's brain waves during two separate walks: once while he was using his phone and once without it.

The scans showed normal brainwaves when Rossen walked without his phone.

"This tells us that you're focusing on just the one thing," Putrino said.

But when Rossen walked while texting, the scan showed his brain was "completely overloaded," he continued.

It's a myth that humans can multitask; they're actually just quickly switching between tasks. That means when people are texting while walking, they're not actually paying full attention to walking.

Consider this a reminder: The next time you're out for a walk, put away the phone!

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