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Social Media

Facebook shown to boost mental skills in seniors: study
February 23, 2013
First Published: 15:10 IST(23/2/2013)
Last Updated: 15:12 IST(23/2/2013)
Researchers say that Facebook could help boost cognitive function among seniors. Photo: AFP/Creatista/

For sharper cognitive skills, a new study suggests that grandma and grandpa join the digital world of social networking and open Facebook accounts.

In a preliminary study of older adults aged 68 to 91, researchers out of the University of Arizona noticed a 25 percent improvement in tasks related to working memory among new Facebook users.

Participants were divided into three groups. In the first, 14 seniors were trained to use the social media platform and were asked to post at least once day.

Participants were instructed to befriend people within the group.

A second group of 14 adults was instructed to use an online diary site, in which entries were kept private with no ability to share. Participants were instructed to post entries of no more than three to five sentences -- to mimic the length of status updates on Facebook -- a minimum of once daily.

And the third group, which acted as a control group, were told they were on a non-existent "waiting list."

By the end of the experiment, those who learned how to use Facebook showed a 25 percent improvement in mental "updating" skills -- the ability to quickly add or delete contents of their working memory -- researchers noted. The findings were presented at the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii.

"There's also a large body of literature showing that people who are more socially engaged are less lonely, have more social support and are more socially integrated are also doing better cognitively in older age," points out lead author Janelle Wohltmann.

Meanwhile, another study published last year in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that visiting social networking sites like Facebook provided positive emotional experiences, as measured by breathing rates, brain activation and pupil dilation.

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