BrainWeb offers Internet insights

As editor of BrainWeb for the past four
years, I frequently evaluate health-related Web sites looking for things to add
to the compilation of links to sites about brain diseases and disorders. Once I
pick possible sites, they then go to our advisory committee, Bernice Grafstein,
Ph.D., and Murray Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., for final review and approval. This
vetting process helps ensure the quality of the material that BrainWeb
recommends to its users.

Finding accurate health information online can be
difficult—the sheer volume of information available makes it hard to know what
can be trusted. Here are some things I keep in mind when assessing Web sites:

  1. Where is this information coming from? It’s important
    to notice who sponsors the site: an organization, a pharmaceutical company, a
    government agency or an individual. The site’s affiliation can color the
    information presented.

  2. Are there a large number of advertisements or requests
    for donations? If so, I would be less likely to trust the site. A site from a
    pharmaceutical company, for instance, functions as one large advertisement,
    even if it appears to be something else at first glance.

  3. Is there a scientific advisory committee listed
    somewhere on the site? This committee indicates that experts have looked over
    the information and approved the content.

  4. When was the site last updated? Health information
    changes very quickly, and Web sites should be revised accordingly.

And forget Google—there are better places to begin searching
for health information. BrainWeb,
of course, is one place to go. The National
Institutes of Health
is another. The search bar on the homepage will
connect you information from all of its institutes and centers, in addition to
the National Library of Medicine and the
fabulous Medline Plus.

-Johanna Goldberg

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