Man looking at a computer, thinking

And that's now official. "If you think our incessant use of the Internet, Blackberrys, iPods, text-messaging and video games has changed our lives and our children's lives, here's some breaking news: Technology has not only altered our lives, it's altered our brains." Dr Gary Small led a team from UCLA who recently published findings that show the Internet is a good thing to help maintain brain activity and agility, particularly for middle-aged and older people. It may even improve brain activity.

"Internet searches engages complicated brain activity which may help exercise and improve brain function."

Using a test group aged between 55 and 76 both with and without experience of the Internet, participants performed Web searches and book-reading tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which recorded the subtle brain-circuitry changes experienced during these activities.

Internet searches revealed a major difference between the two groups. While all participants demonstrated the same brain activity that was seen during the book-reading task, the Web-savvy group also registered activity in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain, which control decision-making and complex reasoning.

"A simple, everyday task 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," Small said. So get surfing and keep your brain active as our life expectancy gets longer.