Today Show: The Internet Causing Digital Amnesia

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Dean Sherzai, MD talks about "digital amnesia."

The Internet and connected devices are fast becoming substitutes for remembering things, reducing our memory’s capability, according to a recent study by Kaspersky Labs. NBC’s Craig Melvin reports.

Tamron Hall, Host: Well, here’s something to think about. Are you suffering from digital amnesia?

Carson Daly, Host: That’s right. All of your devices might make life a little easier, but they’re also leading some of us to forget some pretty vital information. Today National Correspondent Craig Melvin is here with more on this.

Craig Melvin: Yeah, this is probably something we can all relate to, to a certain extent. With so many numbers, so many email addresses and passwords to remember, these days it seems impossible to store all of them in our brain, but just what toll is our reliance on smartphones taking? Take a look.

What’s your number? It’s a question you may expect to hear at a singles bar, but how about at a family dinner? It seems our growing dependence on digital devices may leaving us vulnerable. All that information we used to store in our brains is now often also stored in our devices. They’ve become sort of a crutch for our memories. That’s according to an online survey by security software maker, Kaspersky Lab. It found that more than 90% of respondents say they use the Internet as an extension of their brains.

Dean Sherzai, MD: We have several areas of the brain where you work—memory, problem-solving, visual, spatial, attention, motor skills. Well, if we give up all those skills, and give it up to computers, what is your brain doing? I think it’s a significant question to address.

Read more…

Craig Melvin: 67% of those surveyed could remember the phone number to the house they lived in when they were 15, but only 43% could recall their siblings phone number off the top of their head.

Interviews with people on the street:

“No, no. Absolutely not.”

“I only know my mom’s phone number.”

“I look at my phone ten times a day.”

Craig Melvin: The Internet has also changed how we seek out information. According to the survey, half of us will immediately go online to find an answer, while only 3.5% will look it up in a book. Oh, those lonely encyclopedias. Natalie Morris: We certainly do love instant gratification, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing and the key is not to shun the technology, but learn to use it with a balance. Craig Melvin: A relationship with the Internet, and in particular those easy to access mobile devices, and the trust we put in them, can resemble a human relationship according to some experts.

Joaquin Phoenix from the movie, “Her”:

“Actually, the woman that I’ve been seeing, Samantha…”

Craig Melvin: Though no one is suggesting we should all fall in love with our smartphones like Joaquin Phoenix’s character did in the movie “Her.”

Female voiceover from movie:

“Are these feelings even real or are they just programming?”

Dean Sherzai, MD: If you rely on other things and don’t challenge the brain, you actually have, like the muscle, if you don’t use the muscle, it atrophies.

Craig Melvin: So, what’s the take-away here? Well, like most things in life, like especially on this day, like beer and hot dogs, it’s all about moderation. So, it’s ok to let your devices handle your more mundane bits of information, but the key is to keep your mind engaged. This will not only help you stay sharp, but even sharper as you age. Experts that we talked to…they say it’s all about simple activities that challenge the brain. Here are a few good ones: Number one. Get more social. Several studies show that people who do preserve their brains longer.

Carson Daly: Real social.

Craig Melvin: Yeah, real social. Actually talking to people.

Tamron Hall: a human encounter.

Carson Daly: It’s called talking to someone.

Tamron Hall: Face-to-face.

Craig Melvin: Love music? Learning a new musical instrument, even a new song, involves building memory and cognition, as well. And, read and summarize. This is not one I thought about, but this is what one of the experts said. Read and summarize. It’s great for the memory. Experts suggest, after you read a chapter, take a moment to summarize it in your head.

Tamron Hall: It’s interesting we all said that I can’t remember my home number to save my life, but we all remember are phone numbers as kids.

Carson Daly: Our first numbers.

Craig Melvin: If you lost your cell phone right now, all of your cell phones right now, you’d be out of luck.

Tamron Hall: I’ve got goosebumps at the mere thought of it. I don’t know who I would call. I know 911.

Carson Daly: I’d call 867-5309. From the song.

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