Googling The Internet: An Unexpected Brain Boost?

October 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

Image by svileen001 on Stock.Xchng

When my Grandfather first learned to run a computer, he was fascinated.  And when he found out how to hook it up to the Internet and use Google, it was even better – as if he suddenly had the world’s largest library available at his fingertips.  We all knew it was good for him, and kept him interested in life and learning, and it was great to see his interest sparked so brightly.

But what we didn’t know was that learning to navigate and search the Internet likely made significant and positive changes in his brain – possibly helping to keep him clear minded and sharp.

As it turns out, studies recently presented to the Society for Neuroscience suggest that learning to use the Internet can activate neural patterns in the brain, patterns that may help keep cognitive functions sharp in middle aged and senior adults.

A team at UCLA studied 24 volunteers, ages 55 to 78.  About half of them used the Internet daily; the other half had very little Internet experience.  At the beginning of the study, they were asked to perform Internet searches while having the activity levels in their brains measured through fMRI scans.  Over the next two weeks, they asked to perform searches on the Internet  on their own, and  at the end of the two weeks, they were given a second brain scan while doing similar searches.

For the novice Internet users, there was a marked difference in the before and after scans.   Both sets showed activity in areas related to language, memory and visual skills  — but the “after” scan also showed activity in other areas of the brain, especially those involved in working memory and decision making.  And their second set of scans were very similar to those of the more experienced Internet users, even after such a short time.

Although it may seem surprising, it makes a bit of sense – searching the Internet for  answers and information is a complex task.  To do it, we have to use working memory to recall what we’re looking for, where we’ve looked, and to hold all the various bits of information.   We also need to be able to scan the text and graphics, decide which ones are important and Image by svileen001 on Stock.Xchngwhich ones aren’t,

So searching the Internet (or learning to Google) may be  a lot more than a simple past time – it may be a simple, non-time intensive, and easily available form of brain exercise  that can help with  key areas older adults often have trouble with, decision making and working memory.

BTW… have you entered Dakim’s “Give Thanks for Loved Ones” Contest?” Submit a 500 word essay by November 5th, & you could win a $2500 brain fitness system for a senior friend or family member!  Check out the full details here.

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , , .

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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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