internet "surfing" energize aging minds?
A recent study by UCLA scientists reports that internet
"surfing" by middle-aged and older adults triggers centers in the
brain that control complex reasoning and decision-making. The study
claims that Web-searching activity
stimulates--and possibly improves--brain functioning.
The study is the first to examine the impact of Internet searching on
brain performance. UCLA professor Dr. Gary Small, the study's
principal investigator, says, "The study results are encouraging.
(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."
Mind-stimulating activities--crossword puzzles, card games, and even
common jigsaw puzzles--can stimulate and preserve seniors' brain
health and cognitive ability. Technology is a particularly attractive
way to boost this kind of brain performance, and the UCLA study
demonstrates that scientists are increasingly intrigued by the
beneficial byproducts of computer usage, including the Internet.
The UCLA study team worked with 24 neurologically normal research
volunteers between the ages of 55 and 76. Age, educational level and
gender were similar between the two groups. One-half of the study
participants had used the Internet, while the other half had not.
The results of Internet searching by the participants revealed a major
difference between the groups. Seniors with some Internet background
registered brain activity in areas controlling decision-making and
complex reasoning. Indeed, the researchers discovered that the
volunteers with previous experience registered a two-fold increase in
brain activation as compared with those who had no Internet
The UCLA study revealed that the Internet's depth and variety of
choices require users to make decisions about subjects to click on in
order to discover more information. This kind of activity engages
certain important cognitive brain circuitry in a way that reading, for
example, does not. "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,"
UCLA's Small concludes.
"The study ought to comfort the 76 million members of the Baby Boom
generation. Studies have shown that the possibility of Alzheimer's
and other dementia is the Boomers' greatest fear. Knowing that their
everyday Internet usage could delay--or even prevent--the onset of
dementia should alleviate some of this concern," observes Kathleen
Harmon, Chief Executive Officer of Great Places, Inc. , an Internet
website that provides guidance for Baby Boomers who are increasingly
responsible for their aging parents, including making decisions about
moving into a senior housing setting from the family home.
"Vastly more important are the ramifications of the study for the
senior housing industry, Harmon suggests. "If, in fact, the Internet
can help the elderly continue to learn as they age, while at the same
time stimulating their brain functions, why not outfit senior
apartments, assisted living, and even nursing homes with broadband
coverage? And maybe there should be computer workstations in these
senior projects where volunteers could teach residents how to 'surf'
the Net. The UCLA study convinces me that the Internet could
revolutionize senior housing."
About the author:
Laurence Harmon writes for Great Places. For more information on
go to Great Places!
Additional Information and
webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate