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Dev Rev. 2015 Mar 1;35:42-63.

The developing brain in a multitasking world.

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University of Oregon.


To understand the problem of multitasking, it is necessary to examine the brain's attention networks that underlie the ability to switch attention between stimuli and tasks and to maintain a single focus among distractors. In this paper we discuss the development of brain networks related to the functions of achieving the alert state, orienting to sensory events, and developing self-control. These brain networks are common to everyone, but their efficiency varies among individuals and reflects both genes and experience. Training can alter brain networks. We consider two forms of training: (1) practice in tasks that involve particular networks, and (2) changes in brain state through such practices as meditation that may influence many networks. Playing action video games and multitasking are themselves methods of training the brain that can lead to improved performance but also to overdependence on media activity. We consider both of these outcomes and ideas about how to resist overdependence on media. Overall, our paper seeks to inform the reader about what has been learned about attention that can influence multitasking over the course of development.


alerting; attention; effortful control; executive attention network; multitasking; orienting; self-regulation

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