Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

November 3, 2009

Table of Contents:

  • Fun with Brain Fitness (Introduction to special issue)
  • Older Brains and the Internet (Findings in neuroscience)
  • The Game Is Afoot (A simple exercise to illustrate the concept)

Fun with Brain Fitness

New research suggests that spending time searching for information on the Internet may enhance the brain power of older adult computer users -- and that it doesn't take very long to achieve positive changes. Today's issue of Experience! presents the facts of the new study and then issues a fun challenge to readers: try a simple computer-quest activity designed to illustrate the basic idea under study. You might even win a valuable brain fitness prize in the process!

Older Brains and the Internet

UCLA scientists already knew that performing online searches increased brain activation, by more than twofold, in older adults with prior computer experience when compared to those with little computer know-how. For a recap of those previous findings as reported by Experience! just click on Searching for Brain Health.

Now, new findings by the UCLA team suggest that older, minimally experienced computer users may match the brain activity levels seen in their experienced counterparts after spending only a week online.

The subjects of the study, which was described last month at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, were 24 neurologically normal adults, ages 55 to 78, half of whom habitually used the Internet on a daily basis and half of whom had little computer experience. The two groups were similar in terms of age, gender, and educational background.

The researchers had the participants conduct web searches while undergoing brain scans to detect brain-circuitry responses during the activity. Following their initial scans, the participants were sent home with instructions to search the Internet one hour per day on a total of seven days over a two-week time span.

During the searches, participants used the Internet as their resource to answer questions on a variety of subjects. To succeed, they needed to identify and visit websites where they could read material pertinent to their assignments.

Afterward, a second round of brain scans was administered while participants performed the same Internet search activity, except in different topic areas. Whereas the first scans had shown significant differences in brain activation between the two groups, the second scans revealed quite similar patterns.

Initial scans of the inexperienced subjects displayed expected activity in regions of the brain involving vision, reading, language, and memory abilities. Their second scans, after a short period of home practice, showed all of that and more: activity in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus. In other words, also stimulated were parts of the brain involved in working memory and decision-making skills. Researchers noted that these results tie in with the act of web searching since one's ability to hold relevant information in the working memory and to seize key facts from contending graphics and text are important during the task.

The aging human brain characteristically undergoes physical and functional changes ranging from atrophy and declines in neural activity to an increased presence of amyloid placques and tau tangles, all or any of which can affect cognition. The results of this study suggest that online training can promote desirable brain activation patterns and may bolster older adult brain functioning. The type of scan used in the study was functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a procedure that records blood-flow levels within the brain during cognitive activity. As most fMRI studies involve a small number of subjects, the planning for further research is already under way.

In summary, the UCLA researchers stated that their results suggest online searching as a possible form of brain exercise that is simple to undertake and potentially beneficial to cognitive function in older adults.

Editor's note: Related topics such as atrophy, brain cell activity, amyloid, tau, and fMRI are addressed at length in the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program. For details about the course, please click on

The Game Is Afoot

While we're on the topic of the benefits of Internet usage, SFA has created a special way that the Internet can benefit Experience! readers. There are three questions shown below and all the answers can be found on the web. Seasoned web users should find them easily. Novice users may take a little longer but you have until November 14.

Here are the questions:

  1. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, how many Americans were age 65 and over in 2006?
  2. SFA president Janie Clark's article "Ramping Up Senior Fitness" was written for which organization?
  3. What specific SFA service earned the NCOA Health Promotion Institute's 2009 "Best Practices in Health Promotion and Wellness Award"?

Once you've determined the correct answers, e-mail them to the American Senior Fitness Association at Please enter "Contest" in the e-mail subject area. Three lucky winners will be selected in a random drawing from a pool of all participants providing correct answers received by November 14, 2009. The three winners will be announced in the next issue of Experience!

Third Prize:

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. This 304-page hardcover book is a "groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformational effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD."

Second Prize:

The Brain Fitness Program and Brain Fitness 2: Sight & Sound. These two widely acclaimed DVDs from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) will enable you to "join host Peter Coyote as he explores the brain's ability to change and grow."

First Prize:

Brain Fitness for Older Adults. This comprehensive professional education program from the American Senior Fitness Association will teach you "how to blend cognitive fitness into the active lifestyles you encourage your older adult fitness clients to embrace."



Good luck and be sure to e-mail your answers by November 14, 2009.


  • E-mail your answers to: Please include "Contest" in the subject line.
  • Include your contact information (name, e-mail and/or phone number) so we can notify you if you are among our winners. Entries without contact information will not be included in the drawing. To protect the privacy of our winners, only their first name, first letter of last name and state or province of residence will be published in Experience!. SFA will not share your information with any other organization.
  • Please submit only one entry per e-mail address.
  • The decisions of the contest officials are final. 

Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.
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