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Reported January 18, 2013

Multi-tasking For the Aging Brain


(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Studies have shown that regular physical activity and cognitive training can prevent cognitive decline, but now a new study establishes what occurs in a healthy aging brain. 
Researchers found that the pattern of blood flow in the prefrontal cortex in the brain alters with age during multi-tasking.  Increased blood volume, that is measured using oxygenated hemoglobin (Oxy-Hb), increased at the start of multitasking in all age groups.  However, healthy older people had a higher and more sustained increase in Oxy-Hb than younger people.  
Changes relating to age in the brain occur at the earliest in the prefrontal cortex.  It is associated with memory, emotion, and higher decision making functions.  Also changes to the prefrontal cortex are associated with depression and dementia.  Researchers compared brain activity during single and dual tasks for young people (ages 21 to 25) and older people (over 65).
The main difference between the groups was only seen when they performed the mental and physical tasks at the same time.  Older people had a higher prefrontal cortex response that lasted longer than the younger group of people. 
"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. 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 aging. Further study will show whether or not dual task training can be used to maintain a more youthful brain,” Hironori Ohsugi, a team member for the study, at Seirei Christopher University, was quoted as saying.
SOURCE:  BMC Neuroscience, January 2013

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