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Is Age an Important Factor while Multitasking?

Update Date: Jan 18, 2013 03:56 AM EST

The ability of an individual to perform more than one task at the same time can change with age, according to a study published in BMC Neuroscience. For this research, the prefrontal cortex of the brain was studied, which, incidentally, is linked with memory, emotion and the ability of an individual to make decisions.

It was found that with age, there is a change in the way the blood flowed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Any change in this area of the brain also has been traced back to be the cause of dementia, depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

For the study, scientists from Japan and the USA had taken two sets of volunteers; the first set had young people whose ages ranged between 21 and 25, while the second set had people whose age was over 65. Both the sets of volunteers were asked to perform a single task initially, which was then advanced to dual tasks.

It was observed that at the beginning of the task, the rate of flow of oxygenated blood or Oxy-Hb to the brain was the same. When both the groups started multitasking, the Oxy-Hb flow increased. However, during the course of the task, the rate of flow of blood in older people continued to be high, while younger people had lesser Oxy-Hb flow in their prefrontal cortex.

"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 the 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," Hironori Ohsugi, from the Seirei Christopher University, was quoted as saying in Medical Xpress.

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