Internet use 'good for the brain'
For middle aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power, research suggests.
Areas activated by reading a book in the brain of an experienced web user
A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web
stimulates centres in the brain that control decision-making and
The researchers say this might even help to counter-act the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down.
The study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
| || A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults |
Professor Gary Small
University of California Los Angeles
As the brain ages, a number of changes occur, including shrinkage
and reductions in cell activity, which can impact on performance.
It has long been thought that activities which keep the brain
active, such as crossword puzzles, may help minimise the impact - and
the latest study suggests that surfing the web can be added to the
Web use stimulates much more activity in the same brain
Lead researcher Professor Gary Small said: "The study results are
encouraging, that emerging computerized technologies may have
physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older
"Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function."
The latest study was based on 24 volunteers aged between 55 and 76. Half were experienced internet users, the rest were not.Compared with reading
Each volunteer underwent a brain scan while performing web searches and book-reading tasks.
Both types of task produced evidence of significant activity in
regions of the brain controlling language, reading, memory and visual
However, the web search task produced significant additional
activity in separate areas of the brain which control decision-making
and complex reasoning - but only in those who were experienced web
Brain activity in web newcomers: similar for reading and internet use
The researchers said that compared with simple reading, the
internet's wealth of choices requires that people make decisions about
what to click on in order to get the relevant information.
However, they suggested that newcomers to the web had not quite
grasped the strategies needed to successfully carry out a web search.
Professor Smith said: "A simple, everyday task like searching
the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults,
demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn
as we grow older."
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research
Trust, said: "These fascinating findings add to previous research
suggesting that middle-aged and older people can reduce their risk of
dementia by taking part in regular mentally stimulating activities.
"Older web users - 'silver surfers' - are doing precisely this.
"Frequent social interactions, regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet can also reduce dementia risk."
Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's
Society, said: "Use it or lose it may well be a positive message to
keep people active but there is very little real evidence that keeping
the brain exercised with puzzles, games or other activities can promote
cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7667610.stm