A recent study suggests that there are benefits to learning and embracing evolving technology.
The UCLA study showed that simply using Google and other search engines triggered key centers in the brains of middle-aged and older adults — areas that control complex reasoning and decision-making, according to a news release at UCLA.edu. Researchers said the results suggest that searching might help stimulate and possibly improve brain function.
“The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerized technologies might have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults,” said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. “Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function.”
You might be familiar with the posit that crosswords, word searches and other puzzles help keep the brain active, but as technology becomes more a part of our daily lives, the influence of computer use, including the internet, also helps keep the mind engaged and might help preserve cognitive ability.
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Study volunteers were ages 55 to 76, with half of them having had search experience and half of them having had no search experience. Gender, age and education level were kept similar between the two groups, which performed Web searches and book-reading tasks.
All the participants showed significant brain activity during the book-reading task, but internet searches were another matter. All the participants showed the same brain activity as in the book-reading task, but those familiar with online searches showed activity “in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain, which control decision-making and complex reasoning,” Small said.
“Our most striking finding was that internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading — but only in those with prior internet experience,” said Small, director of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center.
He said the minimal brain activation found in the less-experienced internet group might be because participants don’t quite grasp the strategies needed to engage in an internet search, and that’s common while learning a new activity.
What does this mean? In addition to helping seniors keep up with developing technology, being actively engaged with the internet can help stimulate brain activity as we age.