Scientists have discovered a new way of protecting the brain: going online.
Researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior found that older adults who started surfing the Web experienced improved brain function after only a few days.
According to iBrain study co-author Dr. Gary Small, it’s beneficial to teach an old brain new technology tricks. Online activity, like using a search engine, provides greater activity in the areas of the brain that makes decisions and stores memory.
The ibrain study involved 24 neurologically normal adults, aged 55 to 78, who were asked to surf the Internet while their brains were scanned by an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine. (fMRI measures brain activity using blood flow). Half of the participants had used the Internet daily and the other half had little online experience.
After an initial fMRI scan, the participants were asked to do online searchers for an hour each day for two weeks. After the two-week Internet usage, more brain scans revealed that the participants with prior Internet experience showed greater brain activity in the inferior frontal and middle frontal gyrus – the areas in the brain that are important for short-term memory and decision making, respectively.
On the other hand, those who had just been introduced to the Internet weren’t doing so bad and began catching up to their web-savvy peers.
Dr. Richard Lipton, a lecturer at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine said that people who engaged in cognitive activities had better functioning and perspective than those who did not. Activities like doing Sudoku puzzles, writing for pleasure, playing chess and starting a new hobby seem to protect the brain against dementia and slow cognitive decline.
But of course, getting hooked on gambling, eBay shopping or porn will most likely not produce positive effects for the brain.
While it is still not clear whether the brain improvements brought by Internet use are temporary or long lasting, the key discovery is the importance of keeping the brain busy and challenged.
You can also help keep your brain healthy by watching what you eat, natural health expert and online health guru Joseph Mercola advises. Dr. Mercola’s recommended brain foods are organic blueberries, krill oil, raw eggs and raw organic vegetables.
Use your brain or lose it. Feed it well too.