Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Multitasking Gets Harder With Age

Aging Makes It More Difficult for Brain to Stop and Start New Tasks, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 11, 2011 -- Is multitasking getting harder with age? A new study suggests that older brains behave differently when it comes to switching between two tasks.

Researchers found that older people have a more difficult time multitasking not because they have to devote more attention to a secondary task, but because their brains have a harder time disengaging from the secondary task and going back to the original one.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze brain activity in 20 people over age 60 while they performed a multitasking exercise. Then, researchers compared their results to a similar experiment with 20 younger adults.

They found that older adults had more difficulty recognizing a nature scene that had been previously shown to them when they were interrupted to perform another task, which involved stating the gender and approximate age of a face shown to them before the nature scene.

Researchers say the brain imaging showed that the older participants initially reacted to the new task in a similar manner as the younger group. But there the similarities ended.

"Unlike younger individuals, older adults failed to both disengage from the interruption and re-establish functional connections associated with the disrupted memory network," write Wesley C. Clapp of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers say the results suggest that multitasking causes a bigger working memory disruption in older adults because of this inability to switch between tasks efficiently.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing