Multi-Tasking and Aging

April 25, 2011
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According to the National Academy of Sciences older adults have more trouble with multitasking than younger people.

According to the National Academy of Sciences older adults have more trouble with multitasking than younger people. CNN, citing Health Day News, reports that researchers, through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), compared brain activity in 20 healthy adults, with an average age of 69, to 22 healthy younger people aged 18 to 32. 
Participants were given a memory task, which was interrupted with another task, and then asked to return to the original activity.
Older and younger people direct about the same amount of attention to the interrupting task, but older adults run into more trouble when they need to let go of the interruption and reestablish the original task.

Researchers think that brain changes involved in multitasking may begin as early as the 20s and 30s and note that some mental abilities do improve with age, such as vocabulary and wisdom.

It’s turning out to be much more difficult than researchers thought to identify cognitive exercises that would help the aging brain stay sharp, researchers said. 

Conclusions:

  • Avoid interruption if you need to get something done.
     
  • Do one task at a time rather than trying to juggle them.