Harvard Women's Health Watch

How using computers can help keep your mind sharp

Surfing the Internet and catching up with family and friends online will keep you socially connected, and it might improve your memory, too.

Sitting at a computer seems like a sedentary activity, but as you interact with friends on Facebook or search the Internet, you're giving your brain a real workout. Studies are finding that the mental stimulation you gain from using a computer might help boost your memory and slow cognitive decline. "Engaging in any activity that causes you to learn new things is a good use of time and effort," says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance and editor in chief of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Even if you've never touched a keyboard before and you think Twitter is a sound birds make, you could start activating dormant brain cells with just a few searches of the Internet. A study presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting that included 12 Internet neophytes, ages 55 to 78, found that searching online an hour a day for seven days led to real changes in brain activity as seen on an MRI scan.

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