You are probably a much smarter, active, and engaged human being thanks to reading my blog, at least on Saturdays when I provide links to all the news and stories that really matter for the week. (And I really need to get around to adding a Paypal ‘Donate’ button to my home page so that you can show your appreciation). The Information Highway was once lauded as a great boon to mankind. The mass of data available at our fingertips would surely make us all if not smarter at least more knowledgeable human beings. And then they started posting pictures of cute kittens on the Web. That quickly changed the hue and cry to how dangerous our surfing habits had become. Turning from real human interaction to social media, a sedentary instead of active lifestyle, the naysayers quickly began pointing out that the internet had doomed us as a species.
It’s hard to believe with Wikipedia providing what once required a trip to the local library, with instantaneous updates to the important news stories of the day – like that John Travolta just got sued again for satisfying his gay urges – and with every type of porn know to man just a click or two away, that the internet could be bad for you. Who needs real friends when you have 5,438 on Facebook anyway?
But could it be that the partypoopers were right? Is surfing the internet turning us all into social misfits? Does spending six hours sitting in front of your computer every day lead to health problems and an advance risk of heart attack? Are we busy updating our Facebook page status when we should be updating our exercise regime instead? Is Google really a part of an alien plot to take over the earth?
Yup, smells like science to me.
Or I think it does. Give me a minute and let me Google it.
It may be more healthy for the children of the world to go outside and play a game of tag than hide out in their bedroom surfing all of the porn sites their parents think they’ve blocked, but according to scientists at UCLA, for computer-savvy middle-aged and older adults, searching the Internet helps stimulate and improve brain function. Not to mention the other parts of your body that can be stimulated if it is porn you are searching for.
The research by Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and author of the book iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, is the first of its kind to assess the impact of internet searching on the aging brain. His study shows that routine use of the ‘net triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. “Everyday tasks 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,” says Small.
While Small’s work does little to explain the diminished mental capacity of, for example an aging queen who lives in Scotland and spends far too much of his time posting on the gay Thailand message boards, his study did find a difference between the benefits of surfing the internet for those who were computer savvy and those old farts who had still not mastered the use of a mouse. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the study’s subjects’ brains – a group of volunteers between the ages of 55 and 76 – researchers found that the brains of the Web-savvy group reflected about twice as much activity compared to the brains of those who were not Web-savvy. But in both types of subjects, performing internet searches resulted in higher amounts of brain activity than did reading a book.
Dr. Small said the minimal brain activation shown by the less experienced Internet users may be due to the fact that it was a new experience, and the Web users weren’t yet adept at clicking around and making choices. It could also be that the first photo of a hot naked man that appeared on their computer screen left them stunned and unable to search further.
Dr., Small said that young people born into a world of laptops and cell phones, text messaging and twittering – or Digital Natives as he calls them – spend an average of 8 1/2 hours each day exposed to digital technology. This exposure is rewiring their brain’s neural circuitry, heightening skills like multi-tasking, complex reasoning, and decision-making.
Digital immigrants, the old farts on the opposite end of the spectrum who were born into a world of pocket calendars you penciled dates into and letters that got sent in the mail, have to work hard to embrace technology without the already-developed brain form and function. “These findings hold promise for older peoples’ potential for enhancing their brain power through the use of technology,” said Small.
The good doctor has obviously not experienced what the aging sexpat population of Pattaya use the internet for, or he would not be quite so positive about the affect internet use can have on the elderly.
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