The reason most people are lousy multitaskers, according to new research, is that our brains process tasks slowly, creating a decision-making bottleneck when multiple tasks compete for attention. Train the brain to perform a task more quickly and multitasking becomes a snap.
“We found that with training, the ‘thinking’ regions of our brain become very fast at doing each task, thereby quickly freeing them up to take on other tasks,” says study coauthor Paul Dux, a former research fellow at Vanderbilt University and now a faculty member at the University of Queensland in Australia.
For the study, researchers trained seven people daily for two weeks on two simple tasks—selecting an appropriate finger response to different images and selecting an appropriate vocal response (syllables) to the presentation of different sounds.
The tasks were done either separately or simultaneously to mimic multitasking. Scans of the individuals’ brains were conducted three times over the two weeks using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they were performing the tasks.
The participants were initially slow to perform one or both tasks when they tried to do them together, but after practice and training, the same participants were able to perform both tasks quickly, when they were done separately and when they were done at the same time. In other words, they became very efficient multitaskers.
The fMRI data shows that these gains were the result of information being processed more quickly and efficiently through the prefrontal cortex.
Via Ashish Umre