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Much has been said about the addictive nature of Internet, but not all the effects of the net are negative and this is shown by the research carried out at UCLA.
Internet training can stimulate neural activation patterns and potentially improves brain functions in older adults.
As the brain ages become evident changes in its structures and functions, neural activity decreases rapidly and this impacts the quality of cognitive functions. However, the use of Internet can produce a stimulation that improves the efficiency of cognitive processing and alters the way in which the brain encodes information.
This also applies to seniors, even if they have minimal experience searching the Internet and have only used it for a short period of time.
The UCLA team worked with 24 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 78 and with normal neurological function. Prior to the study, half of the participants used the Internet on a daily basis, while the other half had very limited experience. Of course, gender and educational level were similar in both sample groups.
Participants made web searches while their brains were scanned using fMRI.
After the brain scan, the elderly returned home and were instructed to conduct daily searches of at least one hour for a period of one to two weeks. The search practices involved answering questions on the Internet about various topics that forced them to carry out researches on different sites.
Subsequently, the participants underwent a second scan while using the Internet. The results were astonishing:
The first scan, when people had little experience with the Internet, showed brain activity in areas related to language control, reading, memory, and visual skills; activating the zones: frontal, temporal, parietal and the cingula.
The second scan showed the activation of the same zones and were added also the areas related to working memory and decision-making: the front mid turn and the front lower turn.
Thus, the results suggest that searching for information online can act as an exercise for the brain since it demands skills that older adults do not normally exercise: keep a considerable amount of information in working memory, extract essential points from readings and above all, decide what is the most relevant information among all the pages reviewed.
Of course, exercising these skills is also crucial for the young brain, so from now on we will surely carry out our Internet searches from a different perspective.
University of California – Los Angeles (2009, Octubre). First-time Internet Users Find Boost In Brain Function After Just One Week. ScienceDaily. En: https://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/10/091019134707.htm