Many families are caring for aging parents and grandparents whose mental faculties are becoming more fragile as they age. Maybe a little googling can help. According to a UCLA study, doing something as apparently simple as an internet search can slow or reverse mental conditions related to age, such as dementia. “The study results are encouraging that emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults,” said the study’s author, Gary Small.

In a series of tests, 24 volunteers ages 55 to 78 had their brain activity monitored via MRI while they performed internet searches. Scientists found that volunteers’ brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities had increased because of the time they had spent doing internet searches.

The participants were sent home for two weeks, during which they spent 7 hours doing internet searches. Upon their reevaluation, they showed the same brain activity as before, as well as increased in the regions responsible for memory and decision making.

“Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function,” Small said.

It appears that internet searches affect the brain in a manner similar to other restorative measures, such as puzzles and, more recently, certain video games.

“A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older,” Small said.

“With more time on the internet, they may demonstrate the same brain activation patterns as the more experienced group.” Small added.

By Mark Alvarez