[Air-L] FW: [TriumphOfContent] FW: Web can help elderly surfers slow dementia

Michael Gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Fri Oct 23 11:33:49 PDT 2009

This is very good news for many of us I think ;-)


Michael Gurstein, Ph.D. 
Director: Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and
Vancouver, CANADA 

Cape Town, SA (in conjunction with Izandla Zethu SA) 

 -----Original Message-----
From: TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com
[mailto:TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Anjana Basu
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 6:10 PM
Subject: [TriumphOfContent] FW: Web can help elderly surfers slow dementia

>From The Sunday Times 
October 18, 2009

Web can help elderly surfers slow dementia

Ivy Bean, who is 104 years old, is the UK's oldest Tweeter on the social
networking site, Twitter.
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor 

GOOGLING is good for grandparents. Internet use can boost the brain activity
of the elderly, potentially slowing or even reversing the age-related
declines that can end in dementia, researchers have found. 

Using brain scans, they found the internet stimulated the mind more strongly
than reading, and the effects continued long after an internet session had
"We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing internet
searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain
activity patterns and enhance function," said Gary Small, professor of
neuroscience and human behaviour at University of California, Los Angeles

In the research, Small and his colleagues worked with 24 men and women aged
between 55 and 78. Half of them had used the internet a lot; the others had
little experience. 

At the start of the research, they were asked to conduct a series of
internet searches while their brains were scanned using a technique known as
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This measures changes in blood
flow around the brain to work out which parts are the most and least active.
After the initial scan, participants went home and used the internet to
carry out specified tasks for an hour a day at least seven times over the
following fortnight. Then they had a second brain scan, again while
searching the internet. 

Small and his colleagues found the impacts began immediately, with the first
scan demonstrating brain activity in regions controlling language, reading,
memory and vision. 

By the time of the second scan, however, the activated areas had spread to
include the frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus, areas known to be
important in working memory and decision-making. The researchers suggest
internet searching stimulates brain cells and pathways, making them more
"Searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be
employed to enhance cognition in older adults," said Teena Moody, a UCLA
researcher who co- 
wrote the report with Small. Moody believes internet searching challenges
the brain more than reading because people need to perform several tasks at
once. These include holding important information in their own memory while
simultaneously assessing the information on screen and extracting the parts
they want from graphics and words. 

The research will be presented tomorrow at the annual meeting of the Society
for Neuroscience in Chicago, where the impacts of ageing on the brain are a
big theme. 
It has long been known that as people age, their brain functions and
abilities also change. In many respects these changes are beneficial -
verbal and social skills tend to improve until at least late middle age, for
example. In other areas there can be declines. One of the best known is
mathematics, as shown by the number of mathematicians and physicists who do
their best work early and then struggle to match their youthful

It is only in recent years, however, that researchers have been able to use
technologies such as fMRI to observe the brain in action and measure the
changes that come with age. What they have found is that as people age,
their brains undergo structural and functional changes, often including
atrophy, reductions in cell activity and increases in deposits of insoluble
protein. All of these can reduce cognitive function. 

In Britain, for example, around 700,000 people suffer from dementia, a
condition in which so much of the brain has died that function is severely
Small and Moody's argument is that brains are similar to muscles, in that
the more they are exercised, the healthier they become. So, activities such
as internet use, reading and socialising can slow or reverse normal
age-related declines. 

Small said: "Our most striking finding was that internet searching appears
to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during
Other neuroscientists support the idea of exercising the brain but question
the benefit of spending too much time on the internet.

More information about the Air-L mailing list