A new study suggests that the very act of browsing the web can lead to a reduction in our ability to remember and process information.
The research found that people who regularly visit the web on a regular basis, such as those who use computers or smartphones, tend to lose their ability to form long-term memories, which is linked to an increase in the number of mistakes they make.
This phenomenon is known as “short-term memory loss”, and the results have implications for how we can avoid cognitive decline, such that we can keep on learning and improving.
“We believe that the web is a particularly important tool in our cognitive arsenal, which we can use to stay connected, to get a sense of our environment and even to help us in some cases in life, like to plan our vacations,” says lead author J.M. Czapie, from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Germany.
Previous research has linked short-term cognitive decline with age, but this is the first study to demonstrate that the link between the internet and memory loss can be more specific.
In this study, the researchers recruited a group of university students aged between 18 and 23 and asked them to complete two tests in order to measure their short- and long-lasting memory.
In the first, participants were asked to write down 10 items that they could recall at the same time.
They were then shown these items and asked to rate the importance of each item.
Those who had been regularly using the web for several weeks were more likely to remember their first few items.
They also had more trouble with remembering the second few items when the internet was unavailable.
The second test was similar, but instead of 10 items, participants rated their short and long term memory, with the first item used to measure the amount of information that was remembered.
In contrast, participants who were constantly using the internet were able to remember the first few memories in a similar way to people who were not regularly using it.
In fact, the participants who regularly used the web had significantly lower memory scores in the second test than those who were less likely to use it.
The researchers also found that those who regularly visited the internet on a daily basis had lower levels of short-Term Memory Capacity than those people who only visited it occasionally.
However, the link was not strong enough to be linked to short- or long-time memory loss.
“People are still thinking about short-time memories, and we want to know if it is just because of a lack of motivation,” says Czepie.
What we can do to reduce short-duration memory loss In order to better understand the link, the team looked at participants who had spent between 10 and 25 hours per day using the Internet. “
It’s not like people are always thinking about the internet.”
What we can do to reduce short-duration memory loss In order to better understand the link, the team looked at participants who had spent between 10 and 25 hours per day using the Internet.
“There were only about 100 participants who didn’t spend a lot of time on the Internet,” says Dr. Livia Loparto, lead author of the study.
“So we were interested in this group because it is a population that has the lowest average level of Internet use.
This is a very healthy population.”
When the team analyzed the participants’ brainwaves and measured their neural activity, they found that there were changes in activity that were significantly linked to the amount they had spent on the internet.
Participants who had previously used the internet had higher levels of activity in regions of the brain known to be involved in memory.
The same pattern was also seen when participants were presented with short-timing tasks such as spelling, spelling errors and the word recognition task.
These tasks are also known to cause people to lose short-and long-duration memories, but they are not linked to long- and short-temporal memory loss in the study, which only showed an effect for short-, medium- and late-term retention.
“Short-term and long duration memory are highly linked, and it’s interesting to see that the brain changes in these areas are linked to these short- to long terms,” says Lopartso.
“This could be because people lose these memories after a certain period of time.”
What to do if you’re struggling with short or long term memories?
It’s important to note that the study did not measure short-to-long retention, meaning that it does not rule out the possibility that long-lived memories are actually stored in short- term memory regions.
“Long-term recall of memories that we have lost is something we can’t undo, so we are trying to find out what is causing these long-distance memory loss,” says Professor Paul Taggart, from University College London.
“The best thing we can hope for is that we get these new long-form memories back into the brain.”
If you’re having trouble remembering your first few webpages, you can check out our guide to how to find the best content online. If