Surfing the Internet Boosts Aging Brains

Surfing the Internet Boosts Aging Brains. That's what an article in The New York Times said.

Well, thank goodness.

Having just marked another year myself this month, I was interested in this NY Times article. It would be nice to know that while I'm working on a blog post and searching online something good was happening to those aging cells.

The research seems to show increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain when searching the web - IF you are an experienced web surfer. That is, all the participants show increased activity, but those who were Web-savvy showed some extra activity.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings, to be published in the upcoming issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest that searching the Web helps to stimulate and may even improve brain function.

The U.C.L.A. researchers studied 24 healthy people between the ages of 55 and 76. Half of the study participants had experience searching the Internet, whereas the other half had no experience. Participants performed Web searches and book-reading tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging scans, which measure the level of cerebral blood flow.

While all participants demonstrated the same brain activity during the book-reading task, the Web-savvy group also registered activity in areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning, the researchers said.

Web 2.0 must be even better for my brain - all that extra interactivity and read/write. Working on my blogs has been the most regular writing I have done in many years. It's a daily activity for me to post on one blog or another. It's a lot more than just doing Google searches. When I look at the Serendipity35 log and see that this is post #617 for me, I am a bit incredulous. Of course, the old paper/print part of me thinks that if all that blogging had been focused on a book, I would have a finished manuscript by now. But, I know that honestly I wouldn't - because there is something about writing every day on a wide variety of topics and having an immediate publication and readership that can't be duplicated by the old print/publisher model.

“Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading — but only in those with prior Internet experience,” said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, director of U.C.L.A.’s Memory and Aging Research Center. "The study results are encouraging that emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults. Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function.”

During Web searching, the Web-savvy volunteers showed a twofold increase in brain activation when compared with those who had little Internet experience. The tiniest measurable unit of brain activity registered by the functional M.R.I. is called a voxel. During Internet searching, those with prior Web experience sparked 21,782 voxels, compared with only 8,646 voxels for those with less experience.

Hopefully, you'll even get a little boost from reading these posts - especially if you follow our links and continue the journey after the post ends. Are you feeling a little blood rush? Crank up those voxels!


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