Want to stave off dementia? Browse the web, for a new study says that using the Internet can help boost brain power in people as they age.

An international team has carried out the study and found that Internet use can boost the brain activity of the elderly, potentially slowing or even reversing the age-related declines that can end in dementia.

The study has found that the Internet stimulates mind more strongly than reading and its effects continue long after a web session ends.

“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.

“Our most striking finding was that Internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading,” team leader Prof Gary Small was quoted by ‘The Sunday Times’ as saying.

The findings were based on an analysis of brain scans of 24 volunteers aged between 55 and 76. Half were experienced Internet users, the rest were not.

The subjects were all asked to conduct a series of Internet searches while their brains were scanned using a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This measures changes in blood flow around the brain to work out which parts are the most and least active.

After the initial scan, the participants went home and used the Internet to carry out specified tasks for an hour a day at least seven times over the following fortnight. Then they had a second brain scan, while searching the Internet.

Researchers found the impacts began immediately, with the first scan demonstrating brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory and vision. By the time of the second scan, however, the activated areas had spread to include the frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus, areas known to be important in working memory and decision-making.

According to them, Internet searching stimulates brain cells and pathways, making them more active.

“Searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults,” said Teena Moody, a member of the team which would present its findings soon at the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago.