Internet use good for brain function: Study

LONDON: Internet use benefits the brains of middle aged and older people as it stimulates the brain’s decision-making and reasoning centres, according to a study by US scientists.

The team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that searching the Internet stimulates parts of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning,

BBC News reported.

The study found that Internet use might even help resist age-related physiological changes in the brain such as shrinkage of cells, which reduces its performance. “The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerised technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults,” lead researcher Gary Small said.

“Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function,” he added.

The study involved brain scans of 24 volunteers aged between 55 and 76 while they were doing web searches and reading books. Both tasks caused activity in regions of the brain responsible for language, reading, memory and visual abilities. Searching the web produced considerable additional activity in areas of the brain controlling decision-making and complex reasoning. The study found the additional activity was present only in the brains of experienced web users.

The researchers said that the number of possible options while performing a web search requires people to make decisions about which link to click on for getting the required information. The increased brain activity was absent in the people who were new to the Internet as they had not yet acquired the necessary analytical skills for carrying out a successful web search by distinguishing relevant links from non-relevant ones.

“These fascinating findings add to previous research suggesting that middle-aged and older people can reduce their risk of dementia by taking part in regular mentally stimulating activities,” said Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Britain-based Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

The study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.