Can Facebook make your memory better?

Elderly patients show memory improvement when using Facebook

Published On: Mar 04 2013 02:42:46 PM EST

If you are seeing more and more of your elderly family members on Facebook, you are definitely not alone. But what you probably did not know, is that using Facebook may actually help them improve their memories.

According to research from the University of Toronto---and published in the journal Psychological Science--Facebook may help them enhance their recall abilities.

The study in Canada looked at more than 200 older adults with an average age of 67, compared to younger adults with an average age of 19.

In the experiments, they tried to memorize a list of 20 words and were tested on them shortly afterward. They were told there would be a surprise test 15 minutes later.

In those 15 minutes, the participants were shown line drawings on a computer screen and asked to push a button when the most recent picture was the same as the one before. Some had words on them, while others had gibberish words--in a similar fashion to what you see on your Facebook feed. However, they were told to ignore the words and only identify matching pictures. Only ten words were repeated, so researchers were able to tell if recall for those words was better.

Younger adults performed better on recall-only task. But older participants remembered just as many words that were mixed in with drawings as the younger adults did. When the words weren't mixed in with drawings, the older adults had a tougher time remembering them.

This suggests that as brains age, they may have a better time recalling things when there's a distraction, because it seems they can remember both relevant and irrelevant information. Researchers said it seems to minimize age-related forgetting.

Prior research in the past suggested adults who are trained on Facebook actually improved their cognitive performance by up to 25%.