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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How might Google keep your brain on its toes?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 20th 2008

 Dr. Gary Small is a professor and researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. His most recent interest has been exploring the effects technology has on the human brain.

While there are certainly dangers to abusing our connection with technology, Dr. Gary Small has recently conducted a study that found a positive aspect of the internet, keeping our brains active. To study internet use effects on the brain, Dr. Small recruited two groups of people, ages 55 to 78, the first who had experience using the internet, and a second group who did not have much experience. They were hooked up to a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner and given tasks to search online. It turns out that members of the web savvy group had twice the amount of neural activation in the area of the brain that is responsible for complex decision making.

So, why is this important? Research, and experience, shows that as we get older, the function of the brain changes. There is a decline in brain speed, memory, and other cognitive abilities. In the past, people have recommended doing things that challenge the brain to keep it fresh, like playing crossword puzzles or Sudoku. However, it's important to keep in mind that what we want to be doing is something that actually is challenging our brains. If we are crossword or Sudoku masters, these aren't the games that will keep us sharp.

For many who are getting older, doing searches online or figuring out the language of a computer may, in fact, be an exercise that keeps the brain sharp. It's challenging as you have to actually come up with the best combination of words to get the most accurate results. Video game shops, like Nintendo, and others are coming out with games specifically designed to keep the brain on its toes, it forces you to think.

So, while doing these searches may be intimidating to those who are older (only 32% of people over 65 are actively online right now), you might choose to see it as a challenge and a game like a puzzle to keep the mind up to speed.

Dr. Small's study appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. What are your thoughts on this topic? What is your experience with using the web, doing searches, or anything more complex. Feel free to share below, we all hold so much wisdom in our questions and comments that others could benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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