London: Young people find multi-tasking easier than elderly, a new study has confirmed. Researchers found that the way human brain copes with juggling different tasks at the same time changes with age.
    
The new study found that blood flow increased at the start of multi-tasking in all age groups, but to perform the same tasks, healthy older people had a higher and more sustained increase in oxygenated blood than younger people.
    
This meant older people turned their attention to one task at the expense of the other, while younger people were able to maintain concentration on both, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
    
The study found that the pattern of blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with memory, emotion, and decision-making, alters with age during multi-tasking.
    
It is the changes to this area of the brain that are also associated with dementia, depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Some studies have shown regular physical activity and cognitive training can prevent brain decline.
    
To establish what occurs in a healthy ageing brain researchers in Japan and the United States compared brain activity during physical and mental tasks for young people, aged 21 to 25, and older people, over the age of 65.
    
Experts found that blood flow to the prefrontal cortex was not affected by the physical task for either age group but was affected by the mental task.
    
For both the young and the over 65s, blood flow increased at the start of the calculation task and reduced to baseline once the task was completed.
    
The main difference between the groups was only seen when performing the physical and mental tasks at the same time. Older people had a higher prefrontal cortex response which lasted longer than the younger group.
    
This suggested that the over-65s could only focus their attention on one task at a time, compared to younger people who could easily multi-task.
    
"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," Lead author of the study Hironori Ohsugi, from Seirei Christopher University in Japan, said.
    
"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 ageing," Ohsugi said.
    
"Further study will show whether or not dual task training can be used to maintain a more youthful brain," Ohsugi added. The study was published in the journal BMC Neuroscience.

(Agencies)

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