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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Searching Makes You Smrater

According to a UCLA study, searching the Web makes middle-aged and older men (that's us!) smarter because it "engages complicated brain activity." The brain and its functions tend to atrophy with age, but searching the Web seems to exercise these functions, staving off the aging process.

Prior to the Internet (and the Web, in particular), games such as crossword puzzles provided the kind of exercise that helped some stave-off this loss of brain activity and function, but now, Web technology offers a new avenue.

The study involved 24 men between the ages of 55 and 76 (that's not us), half of whom had no Web experience. The men were given tasks, including book reading and Web searching, and their brain activity was measured by a special form of MRI.

All participants' brain activity showed activity in areas pertaining to language, reading, memory, et.al., during the book-reading tasks; during the Web-related tasks, the fMRI scans also showed activity in the decision-making and complex reasoning areas. Those with prior Internet knowledge showed twice the brain activity in these latter regards as those without it.

According to the people who carried-out the study, the Web searches forced the participants to choose which links to visit, thus incorporating the decision-making areas of the brain. The participants with no prior Internet experience continued to improve in these areas as the study continued. This proves that our brains can continue to learn, well into old age.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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