Does overuse of electronic devices cause digital dementia? - AmericaNowNews.com

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Does overuse of electronic devices cause digital dementia?

If you accidentally deleted the contacts list on your mobile device, would you still be able to dial the number of your closest friend? 

If you turned off the GPS function on your phone, would you still know how to rely on your own intuition and a map to reach your destination?

If you answered 'no' to either of these questions, you are far from alone.

"People are so dependent on technology that they may not maintain certain skill sets," said Dr. Benjamin Rix Brooks, Chairman of Neurology at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

In South Korea, researchers have coined a diagnosis for this and it is called digital dementia. It's a cognitive deficiency showing up in young people with symptoms of memory loss and shortened attention spans.

Researchers there say it's all linked to the overuse of digital technology while medical professionals in the United States say it may all be a bunch of high-tech hogwash.

George Demakis is a professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

"I was really skeptical about the whole concept," Demakis said.

If someone says a person has become demented because they are relying on GPS, Demakis says that's not accurate.  

Dementia is a serious loss of brain function, and a term Demakis says should not be associated with reliance on technology.

However, the South Korea study suggests that persistent use of technology can result in uneven brain development of the right and left sides and, in the long run, lead to early onset dementia.

This theory was made without long-term data, and it's one Dr. Brooks challenges.

"I think the technology that is used now will enhance people's thought processes appropriately, but I think it's like cross-training, you can't do one exercise to the exclusion of another," Brooks warned.

Technology, he says, has overall increased our cognitive ability in areas like complex decision making and reasoning, but using it in place of a building a strong memory like the rest of the body comes down to use it or lose it.

"We have exercise programs for the body, and Sudoku for the mind," Brooks said.

So, if you can't remember simple information, it may be time to put the device down and give your noggin' a good gadget-free workout.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the time your children spend on digital devices. You should consider eliminating completely the use of digital devices for anyone two years or younger.

Before going to bed, quit using your electronic devices. This will allow your brain to cool down so you can have a good night's sleep which is critical for memory and attention.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:  

Doctor Benjamin Rix Brooks is the Chairmen of Neurology for Carolinas Medical Center: http://www.carolinashealthcare.org/benjamin-rix-brooks-neurology-research.

George Demakis is a Professor of Psychology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte: http://healthpsych.uncc.edu/directory/george-demakis.
Demakis is also a licensed Psychologist: http://www.healthgrades.com/provider/george-demakis-38y32.

The following information is from FoxNews.com in a report (Source: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/26/new-digital-dementia-plaguing-young-tech-users/

  • Called "digital dementia," it is said to be a new type of cognitive condition affecting young people, characterized by the deterioration of brain function as a result of overuse of digital technology (computers, smart phones, Internet).
  • Unbalanced brain development with overdevelopment of the left brain (numerical computation and fact finding) and underdevelopment of the right brain (creative skills and emotional thought).
  • Long-term underdevelopment of the right brain can lead to early onset of dementia.
  • Symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.
  • A problem in South Korea, home to the world's largest population of Internet users.
  • According to the World Bank, 83.8% of South Koreans have Internet Action
  • Some have called for Internet addiction to be classified as a mental disorder and treated as a major public health issue.

The following information is from Kensington & Chelsea Today (Source: http://www.kensingtonandchelseatoday.co.uk/news/local-news/5qwv7pz2g3.html). 

  • Doctors have found that persistent smartphone use can result in the sort of deterioration in cognitive ability that's more often associated with patients suffering from head injury or psychiatric illness.
  • South Korea is one of the most networked nations on Earth where 64.5 percent of teenagers own a smartphone and the country has seen a surge in cases of cognitive deficiency among young people where they are no longer able to remember simple information such as their phone numbers.
  • The left side of the brain is generally associated with rational thought, numerical computation and fact finding, but the right side of the brain is the centre of creativity and concentration. Its underdevelopment can affect attention and memory span as well as emotional development.
  • If the right brain remains under developed in the long term, it may lead to the early onset of dementia.
  • A UCLA study revealed that young people were increasingly suffering from memory problems. They found 14 per cent of people between 18 and 39 complained that their memory was poor.
  • Columbia University Psychologist Betsy Sparrow found that Google and other search engines are changing the very structures of our brains and their ability to process and retain information since, rather than remembering things, we now simply retain the knowledge of how to find the information we need when we need it. The internet has become our own 'transactive memory'.

The following information is from WISHTV.com (Source: http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/indiana/study-young-people-deal-with-digital-dementia).

  • The manager of the Clinical Neuropsychology Department with St. Vincent says cell phones, tablets, the internet and televisions are working our brains in a different way and not working them in others.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the time your children spend on digital devices needs to limited. In fact, they say anyone 2 years old and younger should not be using digital devices at all.
  • Social interaction piece that is important for social esteem and social development of sort of cues and responses," Thompson says about growing the important social portion of the brain.
  • Digital devices might not be solely to blame but it is part of the cycle that leads to memory, attention and concentration problems. Letting your child's brain relax for a significant amount of time before bedtime is important to let the brain de-activate so they can have a normal sleep rhythm.
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