Researchers found that older adults who started browsing the Web experienced improved brain function after only a few days.
In a research scientists stated that a much greater extent of activity was detected especially in the areas of the brain that make decisions, the thinking brain after just a week of practice, -- "which makes sense because, when you're searching online, you're making a lot of decisions".
"This makes intuitive sense, that getting on the Internet and exploring and getting new information and learning would help," according to researchers, "It supports the value of exploring the Internet for the elderly."
Most experts now advocate a "use-it-or-lose-it" approach to mental functioning.
"We found a number of years ago that people who engaged in cognitive activities had better functioning and perspective than those who did not," said Dr. Richard Lipton, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and director of the Einstein Aging Study. "Our study is often referenced as the crossword-puzzle study -- that doing puzzles, writing for pleasure, playing chess and engaging in a broader array of cognitive activities seem to protect against age-related decline in cognitive function and also dementia."
For the research, 24 neurologically normal adults, aged 55 to 78, were asked to surf the Internet while hooked up to an MRI machine. Before the study began, half the participants had used the Internet daily, and the other half had little experience with it.
After an initial MRI scan, the participants were instructed to do Internet searches for an hour on each of seven days in the next two weeks. They then returned to the clinic for more brain scans.
"At baseline, those with prior Internet experience showed a much greater extent of brain activation," Small said.
After at-home practice, however, those who had just been introduced to the Internet were catching up to those who were old hands, the study found.
"This is a demonstration that, over a relatively short period of time, patterns of brain activation while engaging in cognitive activities change," researchers conclude. "That is at least a first step toward gaining insight into the mechanisms that might allow cognitive engagement to influence brain function."
The U.S. World and News Report has contributed to the report.