Researchers Help Identify Neural Basis of Multitasking

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What creates someone improved during switching between opposite tasks? Looking for a mechanisms behind cognitive flexibility, researchers during a University of Pennsylvania and Germany’s Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and Charité University Medicine Berlin have used mind scans to strew new light on this question.

Plots that uncover tie strength between nodes in a mind during a control charge (top) and a memory charge (bottom).

Plots that uncover tie strength between nodes in a mind during a control charge (top) and a memory charge (bottom).

By investigate networks of activity in a brain’s frontal cortex, a segment compared with control over thoughts and actions, a researchers have shown that a grade to that these networks reconfigure themselves while switching from charge to charge predicts people’s cognitive flexibility.

Experiment participants who achieved best while swapping between a memory exam and a control exam showed a many rearrangement of connectors within their frontal cortices as good as a many new connectors with other areas of their brains.

A some-more elemental bargain of how a mind manages multitasking could lead to improved interventions for medical conditions compared with reduced executive function, such as autism, schizophrenia or dementia.

Danielle Bassett, a Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, is comparison author on a study. Manheim’s Urs Braun and Axel Schäfer were a lead authors. The investigate also featured work from Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg and Heike Tost of Mannheim, Henrik Walter of Charité, and others.

It was published in a Proceedings of a National Academy of Sciences.

Rather than looking during a purpose a singular segment in a mind plays, Bassett and colleagues investigate a interconnections between a regions as indicated by synchronized activity. Using fMRI, they can magnitude that collection of a mind are “talking” to one another as investigate participants perform several tasks. Mapping a approach this activity network reconfigures itself provides a some-more holistic perspective of how a mind operates.

“We try to know how energetic coherence of mind networks can envision cognitive flexibility, or a ability to switch from charge to task,” Bassett said. “Rather than being driven by a activity of singular mind areas, we trust executive duty is a network-level process.”

A prior investigate that Bassett led showed that people who could some-more fast “disconnect” their frontal cortices did improved on a charge that concerned dire keys that corresponded to color-coded records on a screen. The high turn decision-making compared with a frontal cortex’s cognitive control wasn’t as vicious to personification a brief sequences of notes, so those who still intent this partial of a mind were radically overthinking a elementary problem.

In a new experiment, lead by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of Mannheim, 344 participants alternated between a operative memory charge designed to rivet a frontal cortex and a control task. The easy charge concerned dire a analogous symbol as a method of numbers seemed on a shade one by one. The tough charge also concerned a method of numbers on a screen, though participants had to press a symbol that corresponded to a array that seemed dual places behind in a array any time they saw a new one.

Urs Braun and Axel Schäfer, a lead authors on a paper, collaborated with Bassett, who has grown novel collection from network scholarship to distill elaborating mind connections. They used these collection to map how participants’ mind activities rearranged during any retard of a operative memory task, any retard of a control charge and blocks in between where participants switched gears.

“The nodes in a network that are many concerned in reconfigurations are cognitive control areas in a frontal cortex,” Bassett said. “More coherence within a frontal cortex meant some-more correctness on a memory task, and some-more unchanging connectivity between a frontal cortex and other regions was even some-more predictive.”

While a predictive strength of this reconfiguration suggests that it is usually one of several processes concerned in successful charge switching, it plays a core role.

“It doesn’t comment for a outrageous volume variance,” Bassett said, “but it suggests that this kind of reconfiguration is a elemental aspect of cognitive flexibility.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania