Neurologists warn that excessive reliance on electronic devices could negatively affect memory and cognition. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The excessive reliance on electronic devices and social media could negatively affect memory and cognition, a leading neurologist in the capital has warned.

Dr Taoufik Al Saadi

In fact, more and more youth today report impaired memory that hampers their daily functioning, Dr Taoufik Al Saadi, chief medical officer and chairman of neurology at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology told Gulf News.

“In the past, impaired memory was typically a concern among people aged 60 years and older. But lately, I have seen quite a few individuals in their thirties and forties complaining of memory deficits,” Dr Al Saadi said.

While such memory impairment cannot be attributed to just one factor alone, it would definitely help people to exercise their brains more regularly instead of relying on electronic devices and online tools, he added.

“A recent study actually found that people who relied extensively on navigation systems to get around had less activity in their hippocampus and frontal cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. In addition, earlier studies showed that taxi drivers who used navigation systems sparingly had larger hippocampi,” Dr Al Saadi said.

“Typically, a smaller hippocampus is an early sign of Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia that affects memory, cognition and eventually behaviour), but we do not yet know if the dependence on navigation systems is a direct contributor to increased Alzheimer’s risk,” he added.

Social media has also been known to contribute to depression, and this too erodes people’s mental ability and memory.

But there are other risk factors for memory impairment too.

“We know that good memory is often inherited, and that education contributes to better memory as well. But a poor diet, limited exercise and excessive stress have a negative impact on heart function, and this directly affects the brain and its cognitive abilities,” Dr Al Saadi explained.

The doctor recommended a healthy diet and regular physical activity for those who want to protect their cognitive functioning.

“In addition, use your own mental abilities as much as possible. Find locations using your map-reading skills, perform simple math calculations on your own and avoid stress as much as possible. In addition, engage in regular periods of prolonged reading other than the short bursts of online reading that have become common,” he advised.