It is natural to fumble for things, misplacing car keys, or not remembering an incident — our brain processes things differently and mostly allows us to recall episodes that it deems important. While a one-off incident of being forgetful is okay, what happens when a person does it continuously, especially when they are young?
Dr Kaustubh Mahajan, consultant neurologist, Fortis SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, says there are many factors responsible for the growing number of young people experiencing memory loss. “Some of it can be attributed to the consequence of living in the pandemic where people have experienced extreme pressures, illness, isolation and increased screen time due to work from home. Dietary deficiency, lack of sleep and some medication can also lead to memory loss,” he says.
According to the doctor, in recent times, a growing number of people in the age group of 40-50 years have complained of issues of memory loss and increased forgetfulness, leading to minor cognitive impairment.
He goes on to talk about ‘digital amnesia’ — “a phenomenon where our brains are fast losing their ability to remember as we become increasingly reliant on technology to retain data”.
Dr Mahajan warns that smartphone addiction could impair our brain’s ability to retain new information and form new memories. “Distraction is one of the key factors in this regard. When we are busy multitasking on our smartphones, we are only half-focused on learning a new skill. The information is unlikely to get stored in our long-term memory.”
“Smartphone addiction can interrupt sleep. We need deep sleep to detoxify our brain. It is only then that the brain engages in synaptic pruning — making room for new information by pruning old information. When we have interrupted sleep, synaptic pruning cannot take place, thus, impairing our ability to retain new information and form new memories,” he explains.
How to overcome digital amnesia?
1. Ensure that you do not carry your mobile phone to bed at night.
2. Turn off notifications and uninstall/offload all non-essential apps.
3. Instead of using GPS everywhere, print Google direction maps and try to get to the destination.
4. Observe a screen-free day at least one day a week.
5. Potential risks to the brain can be minimised by using headphones or loud speakers while calling, especially when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning to its maximum potential.
Impact of the pandemic
The doctor further explains that in the pandemic, we have been out of practice at social interaction. And that instead of travelling to work, moving about in an office, going to other places for meetings and bumping into people constantly, we are confined in one room, staring at the same screen for endless online meetings. These may have greatly impacted brain functioning.
“Several prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with or cause loss of memory. Antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, migraine pills, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery, along with alcohol, tobacco, or drug use are possible culprits for memory loss,” he says.
Good nutrition including high-quality proteins and fats is important for proper brain functioning. Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and B12 specifically can affect memory. Try doing the following:
– Have a balanced diet
– Learn new skill
– Learn new language
– Exercise- walking, aerobics, running
– Get adequate sleep