Forgetfulness is different than dementia

Information overload is triggering Alzheimer’s fears among the ‘worried well’ say doctors


INFORMATION overload is convincing people they have Alzheimer’s disease when their brains are simply reaching their processing limits.

The ‘‘worried well’’ are turning up to doctors believing they have degenerative brain conditions after a bout of forgetfulness leaves them not able to find their keys.

Austin Health’s neuropsychology department in Victoria is studying this phenomenon and believe memory problems are the result of our brains not keeping up with technology.

“This expansion of information in our age has happened so fast, so expediently that it’s bringing us face to face with our own brains’ limitations,” Professor Michael Saling said. “Because the devices we use have perfect memories there is almost an expectation building that we too should have perfect memories.”

Brains instead were like computers and had a limit to their memory and how many things they could process at once, which for humans was about seven.

Professor Michael Martin Saling says we’ve lost sight of the fact that forgetfulness is normal. “We’ve lost sight of the fact that forgetfulness is a normal and necessary phenomenon,” Professor Saling said. “We must keep pushing information out so it can deal with information coming in and if it gets overloaded people become forgetful.”

Legal secretary and primary school teaching student Helen Fitzgerald, 26, from Randwick, found her brain at its limit recently when she forgot what time she finished work.

“I finish at 4.30pm but one day last week I just decided I finished at 4pm and nobody noticed and I kept doing it,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “I thought the days were going so quick and the bus is different and then it clicked and I called my boss and said ‘sorry’. My brain just switched one day.’’

Receptionist Joleyne Mathai, 21, from Penrith, has also suffered forgetfulness in the office. “If you do things throughout the day and people ask me to do something I forget a few things and will come back to them later,” Ms Mathai said.

Professor Michael Saling said people should see a doctor if they think they have serious memory problems or if their family members have noticed their cognitive struggles.


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