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Using the Internet to Fight Dementia

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Dementia is a serious health concern as women become older: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that dementia is degenerative, so lost brain function cannot be recovered. Dementia patients experience deficits in language, memory, perception, and cognitive skills; changes in personality are another symptom of dementia. However, new research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggests that using the Internet can help prevent dementia.

The research uses the idea that cognitive stimulation improves the brain’s ability and reduces deterioration, such as that from dementia. To prove this theory, the research in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry uses fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to track the brain’s activity. Participants in the study either read excerpts from a book, or surfed the web (reading content online). In participants who read the book passages, the fMRI data noted that brain activity occurred in the temporal lobe (memory), occipital lobe (visual), and parietal lobe (language). Participants who used the Internet had the same brain activation, except for people who were advanced users (compared to people who did not use the Internet). The advanced web users had additional brain activation in the temporal lobe, frontal lobe and cingulate cortex, areas of the brain involved in decision making and complex reasoning.

Andrea Thompson, author of the MSNBC article , notes that “compared with reading, the wealth of choices on the Internet requires that people make decisions about what to click on, which engages important cognitive circuits in the brain.” Gary Small, the study leader, stated that “a simple, everyday task like searching the Web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older.” However, researchers note that the research still needs to be done to see the full advantages, and setbacks.

So, how can you use this research to your advantage? You are doing it right now by reading this article! If you enjoy reading, trying looking up different subjects on the Internet that interest you, including more academic readings. While this particular study focused on the benefits of reading content of the Internet, you can also improve your brain’s activity by doing puzzles or watching informative videos. The key is to keep your brain and mind active!
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner and she writes about abuse on Suite 101.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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