UCLA scientists have found that for computer-savvy middle-aged and older adults, searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings demonstrate that Web search activity may help stimulate and possibly improve brain function. The study, the first of its kind to assess the impact of Internet searching on brain performance, is currently in press at the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and will appear in an upcoming issue.
The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults, said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA who holds UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging. Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function. As the brain ages, a number of structural and functional changes occur, including atrophy, reductions in cell activity, and increases in deposits of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which can impact cognitive function.Small noted that pursuing activities that keep the mind engaged may help preserve brain health and cognitive ability. Traditionally, these include games such as crossword puzzles, but with the advent of technology, scientists are beginning to assess the influence of computer use - including the Internet.
Additional details on the study and further research on the impact of computer technologies on the aging brain are highlighted in Small's new book, iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind , published today.