Toronto: Cooking while having a conversation, watching a movie while browsing the Web, or driving while listening to a radio show – multitasking is an essential skill in our daily lives. Make it better now.
Researchers have identified the area of the brain involved in multitasking and ways to train it that can lead to more effective cognitive stimulation programmes or improve existing training programmes.
“We wanted to better understand the ways to activate certain areas of the brain and target action to get specific results,” explained lead researcher Sylvie Belleville from Institut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal (IUGM) in Canada.
In one of the studies, 48 seniors were randomly allocated to training that either worked on plasticity and attentional control or only involved simple practice.
The teams used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate the impact of this training on various types of attentional tasks and on brain function.
The team showed that training on plasticity and attentional control helped the participants develop their ability to multitask.
However, performing two tasks simultaneously was not what improved this skill.
For the exercises, the research participants instead had to modulate the amount of attention given to each task.
They were first asked to devote 80 percent of their attention to task A and 20 percent to task B and then change the ratio to 50:50 or 20:80.
The researchers used this data to create a predictive model of the effects of cognitive training on the brain based on the subjects’ characteristics.
Researchers are now better able to map these effects on the functioning of very specific areas of the brain.
“Our findings can be used right away to improve the daily lives of aging adults as well as people who suffer from brain damage,” Belleville concluded.
The papers were published in the journals AGE and PLOS ONE.