Read this Blog and Boost Your Brain Power
December 08, 2009
Web surfing may be improving your mind in more ways than you expected. UCLA scientists have announced results of a study in which they found, according to the University's Rachel Champeau, "middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience were able to trigger key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web."
The findings were presented at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. According to Champeau, "Research has shown that mental stimulation similar to that which occurs in individuals who frequently use the Internet may affect the efficiency of cognitive processing and alter the way the brain encodes new information."
While the study focused on an older population, the researchers hope to address the impact of the Internet on younger individuals in future studies. Their goal is to identify aspects of online searching that generate the greatest levels of brain activation.
In this latest study 24 "neurologically normal volunteers" were selected between the ages of 55 and 78. Prior to the study, half the participants used the Internet daily, while the other half had very little experience. Age, educational level and gender were similar among all participants.
Study participants performed Web searches while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which recorded subtle brain-circuitry changes experienced while browsing. After the initial brain scan, participants went home and conducted Internet searches one hour a day for a total of seven days over a two-week period.
In the first scan, participants with little Internet experience demonstrated brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities. A second brain scan of the same participants, after they had accomplished their Internet searches at home, demonstrated activation of these same regions, plus additional areas of the brain important for working memory and decision-making.
Researchers concluded that, "after Internet training at home, participants with minimal online experience displayed brain activation patterns very similar to those seen in the group of savvy Internet users — after just a brief period of time."
Prior research by the UCLA group found online search activity resulted in more than a twofold increase in brain activation for those with prior browsing knowledge, compared with those with little Internet experience. If you've been lagging in your own Internet searching, there's still hope: The new UCLA research suggests it may take just a few days for those with minimal experience to match the activity levels of those with years of experience. If you have a co-worker or supervisor who seems to be falling behind in their Internet use, you might do their brains a favor by forwarding this article to them!