Internet Brain Boost

A recently published UCLA study  has indicated that using internet search engines like Google might help improve brain function in middle-aged and older adults.  The study author, Dr. Gary Small said, "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, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the author of "iBrain," worked with 24 cognitively "normal volunteers" aged between 55 and 78.   Before beginning the study, half the participants used the Internet daily, while the other half had very little experience.  After an initial fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scan, volunteers practiced Internet searches an hour every other day for two weeks.  The practice searches involved using the Internet to answer questions about various topics by exploring different websites. After the study period, volunteers then received a second brain scan using the same Internet search task but this time with different topics. Study volunteers with little Internet experience showed brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities as well as areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision-making. Teena D. Moody, the study's first author and a senior research associate at the Semel Institute at UCLA, concluded that, "the results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults."  Moody further proposed that performing Internet searches required the ability to hold important information in the brain's working memory and to extract the important points from competing graphics and words.