Online Search can Strenghten your Aging Brain?
According to latest results set to be published on the American Journal for Geriatric Psychiatry, Internet searches can actually help strengthen the aging brain – thanks to the greater mental “activity” that it undergoes while waiting for the search results and the following “scan”.
Studies in the past have shown that any mentally tasking act has the capability to change the way the brain responds to the task. This is known to create a “mental reserve” that comes in handy when the brain is subjected to insult and injury. Additionally, this increase in the mental reserve is reportedly capable of lessening the effects of the inevitable – mental aging.
A recent research conducted to verify these claims threw in some interesting results. Expensive MRI equipments were used to monitor the cranial activity of two sets of people: Internet regulars and novices. As for on what basis the teams have been classified in to “regulars” and novices”, regulars were those who went online at least once daily, while the novices were the ones who have never been online or use the Internet once or twice in a month.
Once they were inside the MRI tube, they were provided two tasks to complete. One task included reading text formatted just like another typical book page, while the other involved undertaking a simple Internet search. The topics provided for both were similar. Both these tasks were designed in such a way that they caused minimal head movement – thanks to the simplified set of controls present inside the MRI apparatus. The tests lasted four minutes and this was done to limit the impact of the details of the task on the mental processing involved.
These were the findings.
For the novices, the areas of the brain which were engaged while they were reading remained more or less the same, even when they executed the search. The only significant difference was that reading actually engaged more areas of the brain than the Internet search. On the other hand, for the regular users, far more areas of the brain were engaged when they tried an Internet search. Volume wise, almost twice as much as of regular users’ brain was used while conducting an Internet search than when the novice users tried it. The “additional” areas that were active are thought to be involved with decision making and reasoning processes.
Similar trends were seen across all the experiments conducted. However, this theory of searches strengthening our brain needs a lot more research than just this one off experiment that involved a limited sample size. It remains to be seen if these revelations hold ground post greater scrutiny – so that the Internet can potentially play a positive role among aging populations.