Social networks could boost your brain

Online activity could help your brainAs I write this the TV and online news sites are full of the death of Osama Bin Laden. With it are flash-backs to 11th September 2001 – some of which remind us of things we had forgotten. Whilst we can remember specific events like the collapse of the twin towers with what is known as “flashbulb memory“, there are details which we forget. We often need events like those of the past few hours to trigger our memories.

It makes many of us aware of our seemingly failing memory as we get older. Ten years have passed since the 9-11 attacks and in spite of regular reminders over the years many people are likely to be seeing things today that make them go “oh yes, I do remember that”. There will be some things said today which some people cannot easily remember – things which may make them question their memory abilities.

The way our memory can easily recall some things, but leave other details forgotten can sometimes be a worry to us.  Often, as we age, we complain that our memory is not what it used to be – and we are all ten years older now that Bin Laden is dead than we were when he ordered the atrocities in the USA.

There is conflicting evidence on the supposed impact of ageing on our brain. Some research suggests that failing memory is an inevitable consequence of getting older. However, other research shows that no such cognitive problem exists; rather we make less effort to remember things as we get older because we are supposed to forget things because of our age. In other words poorer memory as we get older is a socially constructed notion, not necessarily a reality.

Now, new research shows there is indeed a social link to cognitive abilities, such as memory. The study from Rush University, Chicago, shows that older people who are socially active have better psychological capabilities than those who do not socialise. And whilst this research is about real world, physical, social activity it does confirm that networking with other people is something which helps our brain.

Indeed, the study suggests that socialising is just as good for your brain as doing so-called “brain boosting” activities like crossword puzzles.

So, if you were in any doubt as to whether or not you should socialise online, then let this research help you make the decision. If you can’t find a reason to use social networks for your business, don’t worry – this study implies that the likes of Facebook or Twitter could help your brain in later life.  If you want to be able to remember things in the years ahead, simply socialising with online social networks looks like it could help your brain. And i you can’t remember all the details of the world of Bin Laden over the last decade perhaps that might be due to the fact that you haven’t used online social networks enough..!

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