Spending less time on their home computer may be a sign that seniors have early stage Alzheimer’s disease, researchers suggest.
Computer use requires multiple brain functions, including attention, planning and memory. While there may be various reasons why an elderly person spends less time online, the researchers suggest that diminishing mental capabilities might be one of them.
Their study included men and women aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia or other thinking and memory problems.
Participants underwent MRI scans of the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial to memory. They also had their technology time monitored.
A decrease in hippocampus volume is a well-known sign of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers explained.
The study found that an additional hour of daily home computer use was associated with a 0.025 percent larger hippocampus volume, according to Dr. Lisa Silbert of the Center for Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, and colleagues.
Their study was published online recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
While the study found an association between online time and mental capability, it didn’t show a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
However, the researchers said they will follow the participants to determine whether reduced hippocampus volume and decreased computer use might predict future declines in thinking and memory.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer’s disease.