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UCLA study finds that searching the Internet increases brain function

By October 29, 2008September 12th, 2012Web and Tech

UCLA scientists have found that for computer-savvy middle-aged and
older adults, searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain
that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings
demonstrate that Web search activity may help stimulate and possibly
improve brain function.

"The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerized
technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for
middle-aged and older adults," said principal investigator Dr. Gary
Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human
Behavior at UCLA who holds UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging.
"Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help
exercise and improve brain function."

Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to
engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated
during reading — but only in those with prior Internet experience,"
said Small, who is also the director of UCLA's Memory and Aging
Research Center.

In fact, researchers found that during Web searching, volunteers
with prior experience registered a twofold increase in brain activation
when compared with those with little Internet experience. The tiniest
measurable unit of brain activity registered by the fMRI is called a
voxel. Scientists discovered that during Internet searching, those with
prior experience sparked 21,782 voxels, compared with only 8,646 voxels
for those with less experience.
Compared with simple reading, the Internet's wealth of choices
requires that people make decisions about what to click on in order to
pursue more information, an activity that engages important cognitive
circuits in the brain.

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