BBC News has reported this week that surfing the net is actually good for us – it keeps ours brains in tip top working order!
Research carried out by the University of California Los Angeles and published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that surfing and searching the web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning. Improvements in brain function were mostly evident in middle-ages surfers.
It has been known for a long time that keeping the brain active by doing puzzles, crosswords and mind games can help to maintain receptors in the brain responsible for analytical thought, and now surfing the web can also be added to the list of “brain games”.
Professor Gary Small, the research leader said: “The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerised 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.”
During the research volunteers were split into two groups, and performed web searches and book-reading tasks while hooked up to a brain scan. Both web surfing and reading produced evidence of significant activity in regions of the brain controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities.
The web surf and search tasks produced additional activity in other areas of the brain which control decision-making and complex reasoning – but most interestingly only in those who were experienced web users. Those that were still learning to use the internet did not gain as much as those that had been using the internet for several years already, suggesting that the more familiar you become with the internet, the deeper that you can delve into it, and the more that it can challenge you.
Maybe this news will encourage more middle aged and older people to start to look at the internet as an alternative pastime. Only last year the first website dedicate to the wiser generation was launched – SagaZone, made by the same group that arrange activity holidays for older people.
“Use it or lose it may well be a positive message to keep people active but there is very little real evidence that keeping the brain exercised with puzzles, games or other activities can promote cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia.”
Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society