While some of the biggest dementia risk factors—age and family history—are beyond your control, it’s no secret that certain daily habits can seriously up your dementia risk. That said, you eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise on the regular. So there’s no way your occasional forgetfulness could turn into an early sign of dementia, right? Well, not so fast.
According to leading dementia researcher Frank Gunn-Moore, your dependence on search engines like Google could mean your brain is in trouble.
“It’s important to promote good brain health and to do that is to use it, but these days we seem to outsource our brain to the Internet,” Gunn-Moore, the director of research for the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews, told the Mirror. “If we want to know something, we look it up online rather than trying to recall the information from our memory.'
By relying on search engines to answer our questions, we don’t allow our brains to practice thinking about, processing, or recollecting information. That, in turn, spells trouble for our memories as we age.
At the moment, no studies have found a definitive link between using search engines and dementia risk. But Gunn-Moore might be on to something. A 2016 study published in the journal Memory suggests that our Internet obsession has fundamentally altered how we think and remember. Although the researchers posed easy questions, participants who had Google access were quicker and more likely to turn to the Internet for the answer, rather than trying to recall it by themselves.
“Whereas, before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother,' Benjamin Storm, the study’s lead author, wrote. 'As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.”
So the next time you need to answer a pressing question, try racking your brain before reaching for your phone (or laptop!) Trust us, your 80-year-old self will thank you. And if your memory needs an extra boost, train your brain with these pro tricks to getting a superhuman memory.