Carl Sagan once said: “The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use, we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.” Digital technology means more than social media and computer games, it also means learning and exercise. In this essay, we will discover how digital technology enhances our memory ability, and decision-making skill and improve understanding skill.

Tech and Memory

In his contemplation of human faculties, Marcus Tullius Cicero astutely noted, “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things,” thereby emphasizing its central role in the tapestry of human cognition. Memory is not merely a repository of past experiences; it is instrumental in the processes of learning, planning, and applying experiential knowledge. However, the robustness of memory often dwindles with advancing age, presenting a significant challenge to these cognitive functions. It is in this arena that the burgeoning field of digital technology offers promising interventions.

The seminal work of Small et al. (2020) provides a pivotal exploration into this domain. Their study meticulously investigates the efficacy of memory training software and computer games in augmenting cognitive functions in an aging demographic. The findings of this research not only reaffirm the brain’s capacity for plasticity in later years but also unveil the prospective roles digital tools might play in counteracting or ameliorating the cognitive declines typically observed with aging.

The granularity of their data is particularly illuminating. Participants who engaged with a specific computer program over a sustained period—completing at least 40 sessions across six months—manifested significant enhancements in their cognitive capabilities. These improvements were observed in immediate and delayed memory, as well as in language faculties. As detailed by Small et al. (2020, p. 184), these outcomes extend beyond mere memory fortification. They represent a broader spectrum of cognitive rejuvenation facilitated by digital technology, offering novel pathways for cognitive rehabilitation and enrichment in elderly populations.

This research provides a compelling foundation for the integration of digital tools in cognitive training regimens, particularly tailored for the elderly. It posits that such technological interventions could play a pivotal role in enhancing brain functions typically susceptible to age-related decline, potentially elevating the overall cognitive wellbeing of older individuals. The implications of this study are profound, suggesting a paradigm shift in how we approach aging, cognitive health, and the application of digital technology in these realms.

Digital Enhancement of Cognition

Further in-depth research provides compelling evidence that digital technology not only augments memory but also significantly enhances language abilities and decision-making skills. Small et al. (2020, p. 182) delineate a fascinating neural distinction between individuals with varying levels of internet proficiency. In their study, subjects with limited internet experience displayed brain activation patterns akin to those engaged in conventional reading. Conversely, individuals proficient in internet use exhibited heightened neural activity in regions pivotal for decision-making, complex reasoning, and visual processing, such as the frontal pole, anterior temporal region, anterior and posterior cingulate, and hippocampus.

This differential neural engagement suggests that adeptness in internet searching may bolster skills like selection, multifaceted thinking, and insight. Such an enhancement in cognitive abilities, attributed to internet browsing, underscores the adult brain’s remarkable plasticity and adaptability to digital environments. Moreover, this finding illuminates the broader impact of internet usage on our cognitive processes, particularly among those proficient in navigating the digital realm.

Building upon this premise, it is hypothesized that video gaming, which involves navigating complex virtual environments and making rapid, strategic decisions, could offer even greater cognitive benefits. Video games, by virtue of simulating expansive and intricate virtual worlds, may demand and thereby foster quicker and more judicious decision-making abilities in players. This potential for video games to further enhance language skills and decision-making faculties opens an intriguing avenue for research into how digital technology can be harnessed to augment cognitive abilities in diverse contexts.

Video Games and Learning

Video game is more than entertainment. It can also enhance people’s understanding and learning skills and improve the education system. “More than a multibillion-dollar industry, more than a compelling toy for both children and adults, more than a route to computer literacy, video games are important because they let people participate in new worlds.” (Shaffer et al., 2005, p.105) An example from Shaffer et al. (2005), in the game Deus Ex, the player experiences the activity of a government agent’s life, joining in a world where the player needs to do operations with the government and terrorists. This experience can influence players’ real-life experience and they can have the ability to experience something they may not experience before. Meanwhile, we believe that video games can also solve some problems in the current education system. “A century ago, John Dewey argued that schools were built on a fact fetish, and the argument is still valid today. The fact fetish views any area of learning whether physics, mathematics, or history as a body of facts or information. The measure of good teaching and learning is the extent to which students can answer questions about these facts on tests.”(Shaffer et al., 2005, p.107) This is undoubtedly the fastest and easiest way to find out about a student’s learning ability and knowledge understanding, but as mentioned in the study, it completely defeats the purpose of education and it is basically from the assembly line model of the Industrial Revolution, far away from pragmatism. “Through these and similar experiences in multiple contexts, learners can understand complex concepts without losing the connection between abstract ideas and the real problems they can be used to solve. In other words, the virtual worlds of games are powerful because they make it possible to develop situated understanding.” (Shaffer et al., 2005, p.106) Video games provide a solution, they create a virtual world in which people can experience other characters, solve problems, and communicate with other users, we believe that if education organizations can change the concept of education and further adapt and innovate in the education system, digital technology can have a great positive impact on everyone.


In conclusion, our analysis underscores the substantial impact of digital technology in cognitive enhancement and educational methodologies. The empirical evidence, notably from studies like Small et al. (2020), demonstrates a significant potential of digital tools in improving memory, language abilities, and decision-making skills, particularly among aging populations. This aligns with the neuroplasticity theory, suggesting that the adult brain can adapt and respond positively to digital stimuli. Furthermore, the integration of video games in educational settings, as discussed by Shaffer et al. (2005), reveals an innovative approach to learning, transcending traditional fact-based methods. These games offer immersive experiences that can lead to deeper understanding and retention of complex subjects.

This body of research not only advances our understanding of how digital technologies can be harnessed for cognitive improvement but also opens new pathways for pedagogical innovation. The implications of these findings are manifold, ranging from the development of targeted digital interventions for cognitive decline to the restructuring of educational curricula to include digital mediums. Future research should focus on the long-term impacts of these technologies and their scalability in diverse educational and clinical settings. Ultimately, the integration of digital technology in cognitive and educational realms presents a paradigm shift, offering a multifaceted approach to enhancing human cognitive capabilities and transforming learning processes.


Shaffer, D. W., Squire, K. R., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video Games and the Future of Learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(2), 105-111.

Small, G. W., Lee, J., Kaufman, A., Jalil, J., Siddarth, P., Gaddipati, H., Moody, T. D., & Bookheimer, S. Y. (2020). Brain health consequences of digital technology use. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 22(2), 179–187.

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