Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Want a brain boost

No need to feel guilty for all the time you poke around the Internet you are boosting your brain power.

Research has determined that for older folks, those aged 55 to 78, searching on the internet causes enhanced neural stimulation leading to better reasoning and decision-making.

In a presentation at the Neuroscience 2009 meeting in Chicago, scientists stated, "The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults." Defying folk wisdom that claims one cannot teach old dogs new tricks.

One of the authors of the study, UCLA psych professor Dr. Gary Small, said, "We found that for older people with minimal web experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function." In other words, it takes just a matter of days for older first-time Internet users to catch up to their more experienced counterparts in terms of brain activity.

Small also wrote iBrain, a book all about how technology use impacts brain functions.

Twenty-four people aged 55 to 78 whose brains functioned normally, half of whom were daily Internet users, and half not,volunteered for this research.

  • First, they searched the web in a lab setting while the scientists took FMRI scans of their brains, looking at changes in blood flow in the brain.
  • Next, the test subjects were sent home and asked to search the Internet on assigned topics for an hour a day for seven days over the course of two weeks.
  • Finally, the participants returned to the lab for more scans while they searched for more information on different topics.

What researchers found was that the those new to the Internet displayed activity in areas of the brain that govern language, reading, memory, and visual ability during both the "before" and "after" scans. However, their brains showed new and increased activity in the parts of the brain that control working memory and decision-making. The patterns were, in fact, similar to those found in the brains of the long time daily Internet users.

Notes taken from Get Granny to Google: How the Internet Helps Older Brains 

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Liz said...

I knew I wasn't really wasting time!

TechnoBabe said...

This information makes so much sense to me. My mother will not use a computer at all, but she has worked crossword puzzles for many years since she had a stroke. Her brain is sharp. It is her body that is letting her down. I feel stimulated when I search around and learn new things on my computer and blogging is a small part of what I do on the computer. I am so glad there are results of studies now that prove that we seniors don't want to be put out to pasture!!

Anil P said...

The studies offer hope to the elderly. Any activity that calls for effort will regenerate life in one form or the other.

jmb said...

This is my theory exactly. One thing I have not lost as I have grown older is my curiosity and I am so grateful that it can be satisfied so easily at the computer.