Thursday, October 29, 2009

Neuroplasticity in Later Life

UCLA researchers recently revealed promising findings suggesting the neuroplasticity of the brain in later life. Their research found triggers at key centers in the brain including regions that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web. The increased in stimulation of neural activation patterns during internet training could potentially provide insights into ways to enhanced cognitive functioning in elders. "We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function," said study author Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the author of "iBrain." The study consists of 24 neurologically normal participants between 55 and 78 years of age with little prior internet use. Age, educational level and gender were similar between the two groups. Study participants surfed the internet during pre and post functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, that tracked and measured cerebral blood flow levels in the brain. "The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults," said Teena D. Moody, the study's first author and a senior research associate at the Semel Institute at UCLA. Additional studies are needed to replicate findings but preliminary results might be able to unlock the keys into improved cognitive functioning in later life.
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