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Older Brains Get A Quick Boost From The Internet

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of a new study show that older brains can get a quick boost from the internet. Changes can occur in just one week in key areas of the brain that are responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings from UCLA researcher s, show that first time internet users, in midlife and older, internet use can boost brain function quickly.

Study author Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA says, "We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function.” Dr. Small is the author of iBrain, a book that explores behavior and brain response to new technology.

Twenty four volunteers, matched in intellect and between age 55 and 78 were studied by the UCLA team. Half had little internet experience, and the other half surfed the web daily.

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Functional MRI studies were used to track blood flow and brain activity. The researchers found that the combination of using the internet daily and performing a variety of internet searches stimulated areas of the brain important for working memory and decision-making that was not apparent with the first brain scan.

After just one week, the participants received a quick brain boost, comparable to that of frequent internet users. Teena D. Moody, the study's first author and a senior research associate at the Semel Institute at UCLA says, "The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults”

Past studies show that aging brains can benefit from learning new skills. In this instance, the researchers were able to show with functional MRI how well the internet works to quickly boost brain function in older adults.

UCLA Newsroom