Amnesia is the loss of memory, including facts and information. While forgetting your identity is a popular plot device on television and movies, it’s not the case with real-life amnesia. People with amnesia, also known as amnestic syndrome, usually know their identity. People with amnesia may not be able to learn new information or form new memories. Amnesia may be caused by brain damage that is vital for memory processing. Amnesia is not a temporary memory loss episode (transient global amnesia), but can be permanent. Amnesia is not a treatable condition. However, there are techniques to improve memory and psychological support that can be used by those with amnesia and their loved ones. Amnesia sufferers often have difficulty with short-term memory. People with amnesia often have trouble remembering short-term memories. It does not affect personality or identity. Patients with amnesia can understand written and spoken languages and may be able learn skills such as riding a bicycle or playing the piano.
Memory refers to the faculties of the mind that encode, store, and retrieve data or information when necessary. It’s the ability to retain information for future use. The human memory can be compared to a computer memory or filing cabinet. Memory is not perfect. Most people don’t remember everything that happened. Also, memories can be altered and distorted. Memory isn’t one thing. There are many types of memory. For example, learning single words and facts about the world. Or learning skills such as how to ride a bike or play a musical instrument. Another type of memory allows us to recall past events and even relive them. This last type of memory is called autobiographical memory. It is the basis of our personal history.
People’s brains and smartphones create a complex web. The smartphonification of our lives has been growing since the mid-2000s. However, it was accelerated in the wake of the pandemic. The effects of prolonged stress, isolation and exhaustion on memory are well-known. According to memory researcher Catherine Loveday, 82% of people surveyed felt their memories were worse than before 2021. Covid-19 is still devastating, as well as the ongoing global and national news cycles. Many of us turn to social media for distractions. In the meantime, scrolling can be exhausting and cause distress. Notifications from phones and self-interrupting messages to check for them can also have an effect on what, how, or if we do remember. What happens when part of our memories are outsourced to external devices? It allows us to squeeze out more of our lives, as we don’t have to rely on our brains to do the same. Is it possible to be so dependent on smartphones that they can alter how our memories work (sometimes called digital dementia)? Are we just prone to forgetting the reminders and sometimes miss important things?
Although smartphones can open up new worlds of knowledge, they also can drag us away from the present moment. For example, if you’re sat down and texting, or WhatsApping, then it could be a beautiful day. If we don’t pay attention to an experience, it is less likely that we will be able to recall it correctly. This could also limit our ability to develop new ideas and creativity. Wendy Suzuki, a renowned neuroscientist, memory researcher and memory researcher, recently stated that “If we don’t remember what happened, the information we learned, and the events in our lives, it changes us… [The brain which remembers] truly defines who we are.” It is what defines us.
Smartphone usage can even alter the brain according to the ongoing ABCD study, which tracks over 10,000 American children from childhood to adulthood. Larry Rosen, a researcher on social media, technology, and the brain, says that the study began by examining 10-year-olds with MRIs and paper measures. One of the most intriguing early results was that tech use was associated with cortical thinning. “Young children who used more technology had a thinner cortex. This is normal and is also a part of growing up and ageing. It can also be linked to degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s later in life.