You can teach an old dog new tricks, say UCLA scientists who found that middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience were able to trigger key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web.
The findings, presented Oct. 19 at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, suggest that Internet training can stimulate neural activation patterns and could potentially enhance brain function and cognition in older adults.
As the brain ages, a number of structural and functional changes occur, including atrophy, reductions in cell activity and increases in deposits of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which can impact cognitive function.
Research has shown that mental stimulation similar to that which occurs in individuals who frequently use the Internet may affect the efficiency of cognitive processing and alter the way the brain encodes new information.
"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," said study author Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the author of "iBrain," a book that describes the impact of new technology on the brain and behavior.