Internet Use Improves Brainpower

    October 16, 2008

Searching online is better than reading books for increasing the brainpower of middle-aged and older adults, new research indicates.

A University of California Los Angles team of scientists found searching on the Internet stimulates parts of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning.

The findings come from a study of 24 volunteers aged 55 to 76 who were asked to either search online or read while their brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Dr Gary Small
Dr. Gary Small

"The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults," said principal investigator Dr Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at University of California.

‘Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function."

The volunteers in the study were composed of two groups, half were experienced Internet users and the others were not.

All the study participants showed increased brain activity while reading a book, but Internet searches revealed a difference between the two groups. Those who were Internet savvy registered more brain activity, while those new to the Internet did not.

"Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading – but only in those with prior Internet experience," said Dr Small.