It turns out that surfing the Internet is actually good for you! A new study released by UCLA indicates that cognitive functions improve, even for seniors, after a little as a single week of surfing the Internet, giving credence to the old adage, “Use it or lose it.”

Amanda Gardner writes on Health Day News:

“You can teach an old brain new technology tricks,” said Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatry professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of iBrain. With people who had little Internet experience, “we found that after just a week of practice, there was a much greater extent of activity particularly in the areas of the brain that make decisions, the thinking brain — which makes sense because, when you’re searching online, you’re making a lot of decisions,” he said. “It’s interactive.”

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.

So forget all these studies that say the Internet is turning us all into attention-deficit info-snackers who skim rather than read. When you surf the Web, you’re not wasting time, you’re exercising your brain!

No word yet on what online gambling, porn and EBay addictions do for cognitive functioning.

–Richard Metzger