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Multitaskers do worse on tasks that require focus

Simultaneous use of multiple media impairs attention skill, study shows

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4:46pm, October 19, 2015
teens chatting and working on computers

ATTENTION DEFICIT  Adolescents who routinely juggle multiple forms of technology at once may think they’re boosting their ability to focus on multiple tasks, but a new study says they’re not.

CHICAGO — Teens like high-tech gadgets so much that they often use them all at once. While doing homework or playing video games, teens may listen to music or watch TV, all the while texting their friends. Some of these multitaskers think they are boosting their ability to attend to multiple activities, but in fact are more likely impairing their ability to focus, psychologist Mona Moisala of the University of Helsinki, reported October 18 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Moisala and colleagues tested 149 adolescents and young adults, ages 13 to 24, who regularly juggle multiple forms of media or play video games daily. Each participant had to focus attention on sentences (some logical, some illogical) under three conditions: without any distractions, while listening to distracting sounds, and while both listening to a sentence and reading another sentence. 

Using functional MRI to track brain activity, the researchers found that

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