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New study shows digital devices may actually improve our memory

New study shows digital devices may actually improve our memory
New study shows digital devices may actually improve our memory 01:37

(CBS News) -- If you're struggling to remember something, new research suggests - just reach for your cell phone. While some experts believe too much tech can lead to "digital dementia," scientists in Britain found phones may actually improve our memories.

Dr. Sam Gilbert, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, led a team of researchers to discover how much our digital devices affect our brains. 

"We were interested in the way that people used devices like smartphones as an extension of their memory," he says.

Using a computer program, scientists gave 158 volunteers a memory task to do 16 times. For half of them, they had to rely on their own memory, and for the rest, they could set reminders on a digital device.

"When people have access to a digital memory, they offload the most important information into that digital memory," says Gilbert. "But this in turn frees up space that we can use to remember additional information."

Some people agree that digital reminders do help give their memory a boost. 

"I would put in my dentist appointment, but I'd also then remind myself that my husband has one and son has one, so I need to make sure they go to theirs," says Charlotte from London.

Although others weren't so convinced it improves their memory. 

"No, because I have everything written down," says Jo, a mother of two, from London.

While some people may claim devices negatively affect their memory, Gilbert says his findings reveal the opposite. 

"In fact, there's very little evidence at all that these devices are harming memory," he says.

Outsourcing your memory may help you remember important things and even improve your ability to remember, but researchers say they did find a downside to relying on phones because they can lose power. 

"So, you need to make sure that your devices are reliable," explains Gilbert.

The researchers say their next step is to see if their findings can specifically benefit the elderly. The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 

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