Saturday, October 18, 2008

Elderly Web Surfers Benefit Brains

Marvin the Martian This is from one of the podcasts I normally listen to. (Grammar Girl says it is OK to end a sentence with a preposition, maroon.)
Senior citizens across the world love keeping their brains busy with crossword puzzles, sudoku or word jumbles. These brain-teasers actually help keep neurons firing clearly and quickly. Now a new study has a prescription for the Internet age. According to a paper to be released in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, surfing the web can improve brain function in older adults.

Neuroscientists at U.C.L.A. scanned the brains of two dozen 55- to 74-year-old volunteers as they both read and searched the web. Both activities sent blood rushing to the areas of the brain that control memory and language. However, when using the internet, brain regions that deal with complex reasoning and decision-making also lit up. And the effect was more pronounced the more Internet savvy the surfer was: older adults with more Internet experience under their belts got twice the brain benefit of web rookies when going online. The researchers say their study points to ways of designing software that can keep older folks’ brains brisk. Just what you needed, grandma and grandpa ROTFLOLing.

—Adam Hinterthuer

60-Second Science is a daily podcast of Scientific American.

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