Faced with a rich and colorful information world, we often want to make full use of our time, such as playing on the computer and mobile phone at the same time. However, this is not only inefficient but may also cause memory loss.

The paper Memory Failure Predicted by Attention Lapsing and Media Multitasking published in Nature found that when multitasking, such as playing a computer and a mobile phone at the same time, your brain cannot form sustained attention. Therefore, the memory may not be formed at all.

Current Situation

Perhaps you often encounter this situation: you suddenly can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday, whether you locked the door or you suddenly forgot what you just wanted to say. After more and more similar things happen, you find that your memory is getting worse and worse.

Why Does This Happen?

Nowadays, various types of electronic products have created a lot of convenience for us. As long as there are Wi-Fi and sufficient power, we can receive and send all kinds of information, including video, audio, and text, anytime and anywhere.

Useful or interesting information is so rich that many young people are used to multitasking without realizing it. This way of life has gradually become the norm for contemporary young people. It has gradually become a habit to watch the TV while playing on the computer and watch the Pad while playing the mobile phone.

According to the survey, teens spend at least 11 hours a day using electronics, and nearly 29 percent of the time is in the state of multitasking, that is, using two or more electronic products at the same time. But for the brain, is this a kind of exercise or a kind of harm? The answer may be biased towards the latter.

A new study by Stanford University researchers has found that based on changes in a person’s brain nerve activity and pupil size, it can be predicted whether a person will remember an event. The discovery may help explain why human memories are sometimes remembered and sometimes forgotten.

In addition, researchers are also trying to study why some people have a better memory than others, and how the simultaneous use of multiple forms of digital media affects our memory.

Through the experiments of these researchers, it is proved that using multiple forms of digital media at the same time may have a negative impact on our memory, making it difficult for us to concentrate.

Causes of Memory Decline

It seems easy to remember one thing, but it actually requires the brain to perform complex operations. When you concentrate on doing one thing, the information obtained by the brain will be stored in the hippocampus, which is similar to the “library” of the brain. Here the brain can store and organize data for easy memory.

When you use a mobile phone and a computer at the same time, because you switch between different screens, information is transmitted to another area of the brain called the striatum. The function of this area is planning, not storage, which makes it difficult to recall the materials that have been sent here.

Some researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that sending information frequently to the striatum causes the brain to try to store information in the wrong area. Repeatedly letting the brain perform this operation will reduce our memory ability.

Research Process

To conduct the study, the scientists measured the brainwave activity and pupil diameter changes of 80 young people during media multitasking and assessed their memory performance using a memory test and a questionnaire.

1. The researchers asked the subjects to quickly look through the pictures on a computer screen. After 10 minutes they were shown a second set of pictures and asked to indicate whether the pictures were changed in size or whether they had seen them before.

2. Then, the subjects’ brainwave activity and changes in pupil diameter were used to assess their degree of distraction. By observing volunteers’ ability to recognize subtle changes in images, researchers can measure differences in their ability to maintain attention.

4. At the same time, the researchers also asked them to fill out relevant questionnaires to understand the degree of their involvement in media multitasking, such as whether they often watch TV and play their mobile phones, whether they have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impulsivity, as well as the tendency of attention and mental wandering.

5. Finally, by comparing the memory performance between the volunteers, the researchers found that those with low sustained attention and those who engaged in media multitasking activities performed poorly on memory tasks.

The Impact of Multitasking

  • Change the structure of brain regions

In the case of multi-tasking, multiple brain regions of the brain will perform different functions. For example, the anterior cingulate and posterior cingulate will participate in retrospective memory, and the prefrontal area will participate in prospective memory and behavioral planning.

After receiving a variety of new information for a long time, the structure of these brain regions may change, for example, the gray matter density of the anterior cingulate that controls emotions and regulates conflicts will decrease.

Even for the mature brain, being in such a state for a long time may affect cognition, behavior and neuronal structure.

  • Affect IQ

Multitasking will reduce IQ and make the brain messy. Switching between cell phones, computers, and televisions is harmful to the brain. This process releases a hormone that causes dopamine levels to rise.

Moreover, the impact on the thinking process is even similar to drug use. If things go on like this, it will affect the cognitive ability of the brain. In the long run, this will affect the cognitive ability of the brain.

  • Reduce the ability of working memory and episodic memory
        Researchers believe that sustained attention is critical before the brain is ready to encode neural signals and memories.

However, in the case of multitasking, human eyes need to switch back and forth between different screens, the attention will be in a distracted state, and the subsequent neural signal coding and memory ability will be weakened. What follows is that we forget our own behavior.

  • Make the brain more inclined to explore rather than remember
        Certain neurons in the brain will have a balance between “exploration” and “digging.” However, in the state of media multitasking, as the information contacted increases and the range of information that people are exposed to visually expands.

As a result,  the brain seems to be more inclined to the state of “exploration” and is good at discovering more new information, rather than remembering the information related to the goal.

Now that the impact of media multitasking on the brain has been discovered, the exploration will not stop there. People keep switching between different media, besides affecting memory, does it affect other cognitive functions?

Two Stanford University scientists who organized the study said, in the future, it may be possible to use special sensors to prompt in real time that people who have been distracted.

Further understanding of the relationship between attention and memory may be able to explain the decline in memory caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Tags : Causes of Memory DeclineMultitasking on Computers and Phones

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