Features Partner Sites Information LinkXpress
Sign In
Advertise with Us
Advantech Europe

Boost in Brain Function Seen in First-Time Internet Users

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 10 Nov 2009
Print article
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



Print article
TeraRecon

Channels

Radiography

view channel

New Radiotherapy System Begins Operation in Saudi Arabia

The King Abdulaziz University Hospital (KAUH) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has put into operation an advanced radiation therapy system for the treatment of cancer patients. The system allows for faster and more accurate treatments for cancer patients, and is the first installation of its kind in the Middle East.... Read more

Ultrasound

view channel
Image: EMG (in blue) shows the contra-lateral evoked response at different acoustic pressure levels of FUS-induced stimulation (squared waveform) (Photo courtesy of Elisa Konofagou/Columbia Engineering).

DARPA Grant for Advanced Focused Ultrasound Research

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has set up a new program to advance research into focused ultrasound and improve physical and mental health using targeted stimulation of peripheral nerves.... Read more

Nuclear medicine

view channel
Image: The SiPM detector (Photo courtesy of Volkmar Schultz, Aachen University).

New Hybrid PET/MRI System Developed for Enhanced Breast Cancer Imaging

A novel imaging technique is being developed that can improve breast cancer detection and characterization, and help clinicians evaluate the response of the cancer to treatment. The 4-year project,... Read more

General/Advanced Imaging

view channel

Healthcare IT Manufacturer and Teleradiology Interoperability Expert Introduce New FHIR System

A new interoperability system that was launched at the 2015 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting in Chicago, USA, in November, 2015, is now being introduced into the market. The system enables seamless integration of third party enterprise imaging systems using the latest Fast Healthcare Interoperability... Read more

Imaging IT

view channel
Image: Photo of the virtual reality device mobile diagnostic imaging (Photo courtesy of RSNA).

Prototype of Virtual Reality Device with Potential for Diagnostic Imaging Presented

A prototype of a high-resolution mobile Virtual Reality (VR) diagnostic imaging device for radiologists was presented at the annual Radiological Society of North America (RSNA 2015) meeting in Chicago (IL, USA).... Read more

Industry News

view channel

Radiology Oncology Surgical Robot Devices Sector Could Reach USD 7.3 Billion by 2022

A new report has been published indicating that worldwide market for radiology oncology surgical robots market is growing mainly due to an aging world population, and the benefits the new technology can offer. Radiology oncology surgical robot technology provides opportunities to change cancer treatment methods, including... Read more
Copyright © 2000-2016 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.