Smartphone apps—memory aids for people with brain injuries

August 21, 2017
Smartphone apps—memory aids for people with brain injuries
Credit: Monash University

During Brain Injury Awareness Week, new research has emerged from Monash University showing that smartphone apps may actually help people with memory impairment from brain injuries, debunking earlier concerns that technology makes our brain's memory capacity worse.

Over two studies, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN) Dr Dana Wong set out to explore the potential of smartphones as memory aids by investigating how people with traumatic injuries (TBI) or with used them in comparison to people with no history of TBI or strokes.

Memory difficulties are common after acquired brain injuries such as a stroke. Everyday problems include forgetting appointments, names and details, losing track of conversations and misplacing personal items.

"We found that memory apps like calendars can be helpful for people with brain injuries. Such apps can free their minds to focus on other things, without using up mental resources worrying about what needs to be remembered," Dr Wong said.

Dr Wong said the finding required further analysis, but was not consistent with the idea that memory aids make our brains lazy.

The studies surveyed 29 people with TBI and 33 non-injured people for the TBI study. For the stroke study, they surveyed 29 participants with stroke and 29 with no history of neurological conditions.

The studies also showed that these apps can be useful, not only for people with memory impairments, but for the general population.

Dr Wong said that in both studies, they found that the majority of people used smartphones for three main reasons: for communication, as a memory aid and for internet access.

"When asked about the biggest benefit of using a smartphone, users with TBI and stroke most often cited its helpfulness as a memory aid. This contrasted with those with no history of brain injury, who instead listed portability, convenience and access to the internet as the main benefits," Dr Wong said.

The memory apps used most often by participants with TBI and stroke were calendars, alarms, contacts lists, reminder text messages, notes, cameras, and to-do lists. These apps help the user remember appointments, tasks, details and locations without relying on their internal memory capacity.

They also found, in general, relying on memory aids did not influence intrinsic memory ability; a result that was important in counteracting the fear expressed by some TBI and stroke survivors that using a may make their memory abilities worse, just like using a wheelchair may make leg muscles weaker.

"To further increase access to the benefits of smartphone apps, we now need to work out how to help users with brain injuries who may find them difficult to learn," Dr Wong said.

Explore further: Smartphone apps can be memory aids for people with brain injuries, and everyone else

Related Stories

Smartphone apps can be memory aids for people with brain injuries, and everyone else

July 12, 2017
Smartphone apps allow us to outsource remembering appointments or upcoming tasks. It's a common worry that using technology in this way makes our brain's memory capacity worse, but the reality is not that simple.

Working memory may compensate for lack of attention

August 14, 2017
A study in eNeuro shows that, when remembering a sequence of events, the brain focuses on the event paid the least attention, rather than replaying the events in the order they occurred. This finding suggests that attention ...

Brain stimulation used like a scalpel to improve memory

January 19, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists showed for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory.

Long-term memories made with meaningful information

June 20, 2017
When trying to memorize information, it is better to relate it to something meaningful rather than repeat it again and again to make it stick, according to a recent Baycrest Health Sciences study published in NeuroImage.

Memory insight may prove beneficial for those with brain damage

May 16, 2017
Scientists have discovered that there is more than one way to strengthen your memory, opening up the possibility of new treatment strategies for brain damage.

Think you know how to improve your memory? Think again

May 31, 2017
We all want to improve our memory, but research unveiled by the University of Toronto's Dr. Katherine Duncan today shows that we need to switch our strategies. Memory isn't a single entity, and separate memory processes, ...

Recommended for you

Gene immunotherapy protects against multiple sclerosis in mice

September 21, 2017
A potent and long-lasting gene immunotherapy approach prevents and reverses symptoms of multiple sclerosis in mice, according to a study published September 21st in the journal Molecular Therapy. Multiple sclerosis is an ...

Neuron types in brain are defined by gene activity shaping their communication patterns

September 21, 2017
In a major step forward in research, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today publish in Cell a discovery about the molecular-genetic basis of neuronal cell types. Neurons are the basic building blocks that ...

Highly precise wiring in the cerebral cortex

September 21, 2017
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the cerebral cortex of mammals, where, among other things, vision, thoughts or spatial ...

Your neurons register familiar faces, whether you notice them or not

September 21, 2017
When people see an image of a person they recognize—the famous tennis player Roger Federer or actress Halle Berry, for instance—particular cells light up in the brain. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on ...

Faulty cell signaling derails cerebral cortex development, could it lead to autism?

September 20, 2017
As the embryonic brain develops, an incredibly complex cascade of cellular events occur, starting with progenitors - the originating cells that generate neurons and spur proper cortex development. If this cascade malfunctions ...

Strategy might prevent infections in patients with spinal cord injuries

September 19, 2017
New research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found a potential therapeutic strategy to prevent infections in patients with spinal cord injuries.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.