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Can we reverse the brain’s ageing?

A new study has found that we can train our brains to be better at multitasking as we age with some simple practice.

As we age, multi-tasking becomes more troublesome. Keeping a conversation while completing another task can be difficult, for example, due to older brains processing information more slowly.

Researchers in Australia and California have found that this can be reversed. Analysing data form Ebb and Flow, an app-based training game, they assessed the users’ ability to switch between tasks. Older users performed poorly on task switching in comparison with the younger users, however the gap narrowed with practice.

Overall, practice improved switching between tasks across all age groups, however it “has a greater effect on older adults”.

This backs up other cognitive training studies, which found that specific performance in a number of cognitive domains, such as perceptual speed and working memory, can improve with practice.

Professor Frini Karayanidis from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle and HMRI’s Brain and Mental Health Program said this work has important implications.

“We found that with sufficient practice, some older adults were able to improve their performance to levels equivalent to their younger counterparts,” Karayanidis said.

“It is now important to understand what makes these older adults particularly responsive to practice, and whether this finding can be used to inform approaches to using training to maintain real-world skills, such as safe driving.”

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