New 'digital dementia' plaguing young tech users

Published June 26, 2013

| FoxNews.com

While dementia is a disease that typically plagues the elderly, a new type of cognitive condition is affecting younger individuals in their early 20s and teens – a disorder known as “digital dementia.”

Digital dementia is characterized as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, such as computers, smart phones and Internet use in general, Medical Daily reported.  This excess use of technology leads to unbalanced brain development, as heavy users are more likely to overdevelop their left brains, leaving their right brains underdeveloped.

The left side of the brain is generally associated with rational thought, numerical computation and fact finding, while the right side of the brain is responsible for more creative skills and emotional thoughts.  If the right brain remains under developed in the long term, it can lead to the early onset of dementia.

"Ten to 15 percent of those with the mild cognitive disorders develop dementia," said psychiatrist Park Ki-Jeong.

Common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.

According to experts, this disorder has become a significant problem in South Korea, which is home to the world’s largest population of Internet users.  The World Bank found that 83.8 percent of South Koreans have Internet access, and The Wall Street Journal estimated that 85 percent of the country’s population will have smartphones by 2017.

Numerous clinics have been established in South Korea to address digital dementia, such as the Balance Brain Center in southern Seoul.  Many experts have called for Internet addiction to be classified as a mental disorder and that it should be treated as a major public health issue.

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