“Take your meds, get plenty of rest, and keep surfing the ’Net.” The last part isn't usually part of the medical advice for older people, but maybe it should be. According to a study by UCLA scientists, using the Internet—particularly its search functions—can lead to improved reasoning and decision-making late in life.
As brains age, changes such as atrophy and reduction in cell activity may affect cognitive function. The new research shows that the mental stimulation provided by frequent Internet use may be beneficial. “For older people with minimal experience on the Internet, performing searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function,” says Gary Small, a UCLA professor and author of the new study.
The study involved 24 volunteers age 55 through 78. Previously, half the participants had used the Internet daily, while the other half had minimal experience. There were no significant differences in age, educational level, and gender between the two groups. After Internet training at home, the participants with little online experience quickly displayed brain activation patterns very similar to experienced users—in some cases, in a matter of days.
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