Multi-tasking can be difficult for people of all ages, but as we age, it appears that it gets harder. A new study was conducted to dig deeper into the correlation between age and multi-tasking ability. Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows through use of functional magnetic resonance imaging that the brain of an older individual has greater difficulty switching attention between tasks.
The study looked at how an individual’s brain functioned while the subject was doing a memory exercise, which was subsequently interrupted with another task. The subject was then asked to return to the initial memory exercise. A group of 20 healthy adults with an average age of 69 were compared with another group of 22 healthy adults aged 18 to 32. The results showed that the older individuals had more trouble switching back to the initial exercise after being interrupted.
A neurologist at the University of California of San Francisco, Dr. Adam Grazzaley, said “We find that [in] older and younger adults both their working memory performance is diminished by being interrupted, but older adults are impacted more.”
A lot of questions remain unanswered about how and why the decline in the ability to multi-task occurs, but research shows that it can start as early as your 20’s.
Researchers continue to work on ways to counter memory loss and help an aging brain stay sharp.