We multi-task differently as we age

Can we do as many tasks simultaneously at old age as we can when we are young?

Man talking on many phones
As we grow older, our ability to do multiple things at the same time diminishes

Our ability to do multiple things at the same time reduces with age. Researchers have established how the blood flows in the brain differ with age and the corresponding ability/inability to do multiple tasks.

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain associated with memory, emotion, and higher decision making functions and key to the ability to multi-task. A new study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Neuroscience measured the blood flow using oxygenated haemoglobin (Oxy-Hb) to track the ability to multi-task.

Brain researchers from Japan and USA compared brain activity during single and dual tasks for young [aged 21 to 25] and older [over 65] people.

Both the age-groups did not exhibit any increased blood flow during [single] physical task. But for both age groups, starting on a single mental task immediately resulted in increased blood flow to this area of the brain

The differences emerged when both groups were asked to do a physical task and a mental task simultaneously. The older people had a higher prefrontal cortex response which lasted longer than the younger group.

Hironori Ohsugi, from Seirei Christopher University, member of the team that performed this research explained “From our observations during the dual task it seems that the older people turn their attention to the calculation at the expense of the physical task, while younger people are able to maintain concentration on both. Since our subjects were all healthy it seems that this requirement for increased activation of the prefrontal cortex is part of normal decrease in brain function associated with aging. Further study will show whether or not dual task training can be used to maintain a more youthful brain.”



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