Smartphones can cause “digital dementia”

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Tech user
Talk about being totally plugged in!

Have you ever woken up in the morning and couldn’t remember where you were or what day it was? For a moment it’s like you forgot everything! Well, some people feel like this all day, every day. You see, there is a brain disease called “dementia” that affects people’s memory, and they forget many things that would be easy for you or me to remember. Don’t worry though, this disease usually affects people over 65 years old. However if you use your phone a lot, you do have to worry, because you are at risk for what doctors are calling digital dementia.

A recent study from South Korea found that teenagers and young adults who often use their phones to search for information, had problems with short-term memory. Of course, the internet is a useful tool, but Dr. Carolyn Brockington from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City believes that using it too much means we aren’t using our brains enough.“The problem is that we’re using technology, which is good, but we’re overusing in many ways,” Brockington said.  “We’re not relying on our brains to sort of retrieve the information when we need it.”

The thing is, when we learn new information, we are more likely to remember if we practice remembering. For example, it’s better to learn a new word when you use it in sentences instead of just looking up the definition in a dictionary. If we recently made a new friend, it’s easier for us to remember their names if we call them by their name instead of asking over and over again. However, since people have all the information they could ever need stored away in their pocket, their brains are kind of getting dusty. If this trend continues, it’s bad news for future generations.

“I think they use dementia in this case just to mean a memory problem,” she said.  “But you know, if you think over an evolutionary time period, if we use the brain in this way and we don’t use our short-term memory, maybe years and years (later) we’re going to have difficulty with short-term memory.”

In a technology-infested world, I can’t see phones going away anytime soon. Does this mean we should say goodbye to our memory while we still have it? No. Unlike senile dementia, digital dementia is totally preventable. “Don’t always go to the internet or go to your cell phone in order to find answers,” Brockington said. “You have many of the answers in your brain and actually using your retrieval mechanism of your memory allows your memory to get better and better over time.”

It’s not too late to save yourself! Just get off your phone and practice your memory frequently. It will feel good when you don’t have to Google a word to remember what it means or ask a new friend what their name is for the billionth time!

Image courtesy of Jari Schroderus on Flickr.