Dementia: Item owned by billions of people may boost memory and brain health – new study

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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Unlike the smartphone, tablet, or PC, the brain can’t be updated with new software or just replaced when the next model comes along, it has to be looked after and preserved.

Like anything natural, it can be upset by manmade changes.

For this reason, for years scientists and researchers have been concerned about the impact of smartphones, some were even concerned they could cause dementia.

However, new research says differently.

Researchers from University College London say smartphones could improve, rather than detrimentally affect, memory skills.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that digital devices allowed people to store and remember important information and free up more space in their mind for other matters.

Furthermore, the study also discovered smartphones allow people to remember unsaved as well as saved information too.

Overall, it was found participants using smartphones experienced a close to 20 percent improvement in memory of high value information and close to 30 percent for low value information.

Speaking about the research, UCL’s Dr Sam Gilbert said: “We wanted to explore how storing information in a digital device could influence memory abilities.

“We found that when people were allowed to use an external memory, the device helped them to remember the information they had saved into it. This was hardly surprising, but we also found that the device improved people’s memory for unsaved information as well.”

Doctor Gilbert added: “The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved.”

However, the authors cautioned this doesn’t mean people should rely entirely on their smartphones to remember key information.

What is digital dementia?

While the study shows smartphones may not cause digital dementia, it doesn’t mean the devices are perfect and digital dementia remains a phenomenon.

The condition occurs when brain function is affected by the overuse of technology.

Symptoms of the condition include:
• Slouched posture
• Developmental delays
• Short-term memory loss
• Social seclusion
• Lack of movement
• Anxiety
• Balance disorders
• Uncoordinated movement patterns.

As digital dementia is still a new phenomenon, less than 20 years old, scientists are still working to understand it.

However, the condition and its symptoms highlight some issues with overuse of smartphones.

Furthermore, as well as affecting the mind, the devices can also affect the body in other ways such as eye strain.

The human eye wasn’t designed to handle extended instances of screen time; as a result, in the late 20th Century the 20-20-20 rule was developed.

This involves looking away from the screen every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

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