Is the Internet Good for Your Brain?

It turns out that playing on the computer is actually good for the brain based on results from a recent study conducted at UCLA.

Parents are always telling their kids to go outside and play instead of playing on the computer or watching TV. It turns out that playing on the computer is actually good for the brain based on results from a recent study conducted at UCLA. The study involved 24 individuals between 55-76 years old (12 experienced Internet users, 12 inexperienced) who underwent brain scans when searching the Internet and during book-reading tasks. During the study, regular Internet users “showed twice as much signaling in brain regions responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning, compared with those who had limited Internet exposure.” This research adds further evidence to previous studies demonstrating how tech-savvy people have a greater working memory, are more adept at perceptual learning, and have better motor skills.

The differences between the tech-savvy and not-so-savvy show the continued widening of the generation gap as the younger generation is exposed to technology at a much earlier age. Gary Small, neuroscientist at UCLA, says there two types of people on either side of this “the brain gap”: digital natives and digital immigrants.

Digital Natives — have never known a world without e-mail and text messaging and use superior cognitive abilities to make snap decisions and juggle multiple sources of sensory input.

Digital Immigrants — have witnessed the advent of modern technology after their brain had been hardwired and are better at reading facial expressions than they are at navigating cyberspace.

Which category do you fall under?

These new results add to a growing body of research suggesting that mental stimulation can help middle-aged and older people reduce their risk of developing dementia, according to Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. Susanne Sorensen, MD, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society has a different point-of-view, saying that “there is very little real evidence that keeping the brain exercised with puzzles, games, or other activities can promote cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia.”