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A switching glitch in the aging brain

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. A study from the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that one reason older adults have more difficulty multitasking is because their brains have a harder time dealing with interruption and distraction.

Gazzaley:      We think that these networks that allow you to switch between tasks when you're multitasking is mediated by the front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, one of the areas of the brain that is very sensitive to deterioration as we get older, even if we get older in a healthy way.

Narrator:       But this decline in ability is not irreversible. Adam Gazzaley, the director of UCSF's Neuroscience Imaging Center, says the next step is to figure out how older adults can improve their multitasking ability by learning to suppress distraction and minimize the effects of interruption.

Gazzeley:      We have a lot of research in the lab now to see how the ability to resolve interference can improve, even in older adults, through practice and training. And that's a new avenue of research in our lab that we're very excited about.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.