Despite previous research suggesting that older adults are more distractible, new research shows they are no more distractible than younger adults when asked to focus their attention on their sense of sight or sound, or when asked to switch their attention from one sense to the other. The research, performed at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, focused on the effects of age on multisensory attention, or the way the senses work together.
It is part of the PROMISE (Processing of Multiple Individual Senses in the Elderly) study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and was presented today at the 37th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Calif. Attention works in two main ways, according to Christina E. Hugenschmidt, a Ph.D. candidate at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who presented the results. It speeds up the brain's processing of what you want to pay attention to, and slows down the processing of what you want to ignore.
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