Study: Internet stimulates the elderly brain

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The Internet contains many important things—instantaneous communication, unlimited access to information and the often-honored McKnight's Web site (www.mcknights.com), among them. But researchers at UCLA have discovered there may be other bonuses for Web-savvy seniors: It also might stimulate brain function and improve cognitive ability.

Scientists the world over have long held that constant mental stimulation is a good guard against dementia and cognitive decline. But after what they call the first study that analyzed the Internet's effect on the brain, researchers now count surfing the Web alongside more traditional mental stimulants such as puzzles and word games.

Two groups of seniors, ages 55 to 76, participated in the UCLA study. Half of the study subjects had prior Internet experience, while the other half had little or none. Those with Internet experience registered a twofold increase in brain activity compared to the less technologically inclined cohort.

The areas of the brain affected most are those that control decision-making and complex reasoning, according to the report.  The full study appears in the latest issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.