Multitasking Difficult for Older People

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are finding that multitasking, or the ability to easily and quickly switch between tasks, becomes more difficult as you age.

They set up a study using two groups, e.g., one with an average age of 24.5 and another with an average age of 69.1. They asked each participant to view a natural scene and maintain it in the mind for 14.4 seconds. Halfway through the 14.4 seconds, they were interrupted with an image of a face and asked to give its sex and age, then asked to recall the original image.

Everyone was easily able to switch between the natural scene and the face. However, the older group had a much more difficult time releasing the image of the face and reconnecting with the image of the natural scene. Researchers are now looking into software that will train the brain to be able to release tasks and return to the previous one.

[from UCSF]

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