From the playground kid who can pat his head and rub his belly at the same time to the grown-up who can simultaneously text, tweet and tag vacation photos in Facebook while slaying digital orcs in a separate Web browser window, modern society smiles on those who can multi-task. It’s a sign of mental acuity. Or is it? In “Prime Your Gray Cells,” an article posted to Psychology Today’s blog, Teresa Aubele and Susan Reynolds argue that scattering attention among tasks is a bad idea, not just because it’s difficult to keep up the juggling routine but also because it saps our ability to think creatively. “The more tasks you add, the less efficient your brain is, and the less likely it is to focus on the most important task,” they write. “If you are allowing yourself to be besieged by an influx of information, you are more likely to have trouble making the creative leap required for original thought — or to make wise decisions.” Their advice for improving brain function: Focus. Limit your access to such distractions as e-mail and cellphones, and give your subconscious some room to percolate.
What a drag it is getting old. The waistline waxes, the hairline wanes and . . . wait, are the pupils of my eyes getting smaller? Yes, you can expect all these things to happen. In “Is This Normal?: The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond,” Washington-based physician John Whyte explores the physiological changes that accompany the onset of the golden years. Using soothing language and a gentle sense of humor, Whyte — the chief medical expert at the Discovery Channel — tries to separate fact from rumor: Age spots are common, muscles do not turn into fat, urinating seven times a day is fine but more than eight is probably not. And while memory lapses are normal, getting older doesn’t mean getting dumber — at least not for a while. “Our cognitive ability typically stays the same in adulthood up through our early sixties,” writes Whyte.