Senior Brain:  ‘Googling’ Expands Your Mind – Honest!

By Shlomo  Maital     

             Google brain

  An article in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (Feb. 2009) by Small, Moody, Siddarth and Bookheimer,  is titled “Your Brain on Google:  Patterns of Cerebral Activation during Internet Searching”.  It confirms something I personally have felt and believed – Google-ing is good for your brain and expands your mind.

   First the experiment. The authors took 24 subjects, 12 of whom had  minimal Internet search engine experience, and 12 of whom had extensive experience.  Ages were 55 to 76 years.  They used functional MRI scanning to study brain activity when subjects “performed a novel Internet search task, or a control task of reading text on a computer screen, formatted to simulate a printed book”. In both cases, the content was precisely matched. 

   Now, the results.  “Internet searching may engage a greater extent of neural circuitry not activated while reading text pages,  but only in people with prior computer and Internet search experience.”    They conclude:  “In older adults, prior experience with Internet searching may alter the brain’s responsiveness in neural circuits controlling decision making and complex reasoning”. 

     What this suggests is, perhaps, that Google-ing stuff is good for your brain.  When you Google a subject, you scan through a large number of pages of material, fairly quickly, and your brain works hard to spot precisely what you need and what is relevant.  And the more you do this, the better your brain gets at it – it’s a kind of exercise.   It is a skill that is not developed when you simply read a printed page. 

    In general, modern technology clearly alters our brains.  The way our children think, work and make decisions may become very different from the way we older-generation people think and decide.  In fact, the differences already exist.  Perhaps a good way for us Gen Senior to understand Gen Y is simply to make more use of the technology that they use.