Oct 13, 2009

Google Search Promotes Memory and a Healthy Brain

Using Google to search the Internet may help middle-aged and older adults keep their memories sharp.

Using Google to search the Internet may helps older adults keep their memories sharp.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

This should be of great interest to the millions of baby boomers and their children who are facing the possibility of Alzheimer's disease in their future.

A brain study conducted by Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA expert on aging, found that people who search the Internet using Google use more of their brain while engaging in this activity.

This suggests that just searching on the Internet may train the brain -- that it may keep it active and healthy," said Small, whose research appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to record brain activity while people were searching the Internet.

The researchers found that the visual cortex -- the part of the brain that controls reading and language -- was activated while doing the internet searches. Here is an important finding of the study -- there was much greater brain activity in the Internet savvy group. Those who actively use the Internet.

Small said it appears that people who are familiar with the Internet can engage in a much deeper level of brain activity.

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Researchers found that the brains of the Web-savvy group reflected about twice as much activity compared to the brains of those who were not Web-savvy.

"A simple, everyday task like searching the Web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults," Small said, "demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older." Think this is wacky research? Dr. Small gives us a glimpse into the future based on his ongoing research:

According to Small, in the future, brain aging may be controlled similarly to high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Patients would receive a brain scan and perhaps a genetic test to predict their risk. Medications and other interventions could be prescribed, if necessary, to prevent or delay future neurodegeneration, allowing doctors to protect a healthy brain before extensive damage occurs. The brain scans may also prove helpful in tracking the effectiveness of treatments.

This kind of thinking really gets my attention. The possibility of trying to protect the brain from degenerating in much the same way as we protect the heart with drugs that lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room


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