Features | Partner Sites | Information | LinkXpress
Sign In
Schiller
Ampronix
ElsMed

Boost in Brain Function Seen in First-Time Internet Users

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 10 Nov 2009
Researchers found that middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience were able to stimulate key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web.

The findings, presented by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA; USA) October 19, 2009, at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in Chicago, IL, USA, suggest that Internet training can trigger neural activation patterns and could potentially enhance brain function and cognition in older adults.

As the brain ages, a number of structural and functional changes occur, including atrophy, reductions in cell activity and increases in deposits of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which can impact cognitive function. Research has shown that mental stimulation similar to that which occurs in individuals who frequently use the Internet may affect the effectiveness of cognitive processing and change the way the brain encodes new information.

"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 study author Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the author of "iBrain,” a book that describes the impact of new technology on the brain and behavior.

The UCLA team worked with 24 neurologically normal volunteers between the ages of 55 and 78. Before the study, half the participants used the Internet daily, while the other half had very little experience. Age, educational level, and gender were similar between the two groups. Study participants performed Web searches while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, which recorded the subtle brain-circuitry changes experienced during this activity. This type of scan tracks brain activity by measuring the level of cerebral blood flow during cognitive tasks.

After the first brain scan, participants went home and conducted Internet searches for one hour a day for a total of seven days over a two-week period. These practice searches involved using the Internet to answer questions about a variety of topics by exploring different websites and reading information. Participants then received a second brain scan using the same Internet simulation task but with different topics.

The first fMRI scan of participants with little Internet experience showed brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory, and visual abilities, which are located in the frontal, temporal, parietal, visual, and posterior cingulate regions, according to the UCLA researchers. The second brain scan of these participants, conducted after the practice Internet searches at home, demonstrated activation of these same regions, as well as triggering of the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus--areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision-making.

Therefore, after Internet training at home, participants with minimal online experience displayed brain activation patterns very similar to those seen in the group of experienced Internet users--after just a brief period. "The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults,” said Dr. Teena D. Moody, the study's first author and a senior research associate at the Semel Institute at UCLA.

When performing an Internet search, the ability to hold important information in working memory and to extract the important points from competing graphics and words is essential, Dr. Moody noted.

Previous research by the UCLA team discovered that searching online resulted in a more than twofold increase in brain activation in older adults with earlier experience, compared with those with little Internet experience. According to Dr. Small, the new findings suggest that it may take only days for those with minimal experience to match the activity levels of those with years of experience.

Further studies may address the impact of the Internet on younger individuals and help identify facets of online searching that generate the greatest levels of brain activation.

Related Links:

University of California, Los Angeles



Channels

Radiography

view channel
Image: The AeroDR Premium is an extremely light cassette-type digital radiography detector with improved strength (Photo courtesy of Konica Minolta).

Cassette-Type Digital Radiography Detector Designed to Reduce Waiting Times

Key features of a new cassette-type digital radiography (DR) system includes an extremely light weight of 2.6 kg; improved load resistance and drop impact resistance; and reduced waiting time due to shortened... Read more

Ultrasound

view channel
Image: Purdue University researchers are using ultrasound images like this one to study abdominal aortic aneurysms, a potentially fatal condition that is the 13th leading cause of death in the United States (Photo courtesy of Purdue University/Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering).

Ultrasound Provides Insights into Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Researchers are assessing the effectiveness of the use of ultrasound to study lethal abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), a bulging of the aorta that is typically fatal when it ruptures, and for which there... Read more

Nuclear medicine

view channel
Image: Symbia Evo Excel combines excellent SPECT image resolution and detector sensitivity with a small room size requirement thus designed to fit into almost any existing nuclear medicine exam room (Photo courtesy of Siemens Healthcare).

New SPECT System Scans Virtually Every Patient and Is Designed to Fit into Most Nuclear Medicine Exam Rooms

A new single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) system combines image resolution and detector sensitivity with the smallest room size requirement in its class. Siemens Healthcare’s (Erlangen,... Read more

General/Advanced Imaging

view channel
Image: A collaborative effort between EPFL, CNRS, ENS Lyon, CPE Lyon, and ETH Zürich has led to the development of a novel approach that can considerably improve the capabilities of medical imaging with safer procedures for the patient (Photo courtesy of EPFL - Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).

Collaboration to Make Diagnostic Medical Imaging Less Hazardous Using Hyperpolarization Agents

A collaborative effort by scientists has led to the development of an innovative strategy that can considerably improve the capabilities of medical imaging with safer procedures for the patient.... Read more

Imaging IT

view channel
Image: The Coronis Uniti diagnostic image display supports PACS and breast imaging in color and grayscale (Photo courtesy of Barco).

Diagnostic Image Display Designed for Both PACS and Breast Imaging

The first diagnostic display designed for both picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and breast imaging provides excellent image quality, inventive productivity features, and a focus on ergonomics.... Read more

Industry News

view channel

Global Partnership Provides Treatment Planning Support for Modulated Arc Radiotherapy

Varian Medical Systems (Palo Alto, CA, USA) Eclipse treatment planning software can now be used to plan modulated arc radiotherapy (mARC) treatments at sites using Siemens Healthcare (Erlangen, Germany) medical linear accelerators. Varian Medical Systems and Siemens Healthcare presented their range of solutions that... Read more
 
Copyright © 2000-2014 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.