Neural activity

Movie research results: Our brains are bad at multitasking

The brain works most efficiently when it can focus on a single task for a longer period of time. Previous research shows that multitasking, which means performing several tasks at the same time, reduces productivity by as much as 40%. Now a group of researchers specialising in brain imaging has found that changing tasks too frequently interferes with brain activity. This may explain why the end result is worse than when a person focuses on one task at a time.

Our brains are most efficient when facing tasks one at a time, research...
Our brains are most efficient when facing tasks one at a time, research suggests.
Source: shutterstock/Tatiana Shepeleva

'We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure different brain areas of our research subjects while they watched short segments of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond movies,' explains Aalto University Associate Professor Iiro Jääskeläinen. Cutting the films into segments of approximately 50 seconds fragmented their continuity.

In the study, the subjects' brain areas functioned more smoothly when they watched the films in segments of 6.5 minutes. The posterior temporal and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices, the cerebellum and dorsal precuneus are the most important areas of the brain in terms of combining individual events into coherent event sequences. These areas of the brain make it possible to turn fragments into complete entities. According to the study, these brain regions work more efficiently when it can deal with one task at a time.

Inadequacy and overloading

Jääskeläinen recommends completing one task each day rather than working on a dozen of different tasks simultaneously. 'It's easy to fall into the trap of multitasking. In that case, it seems like there is little real progress and this leads to a feeling of inadequacy. Concentration decreases, which causes stress. Prolonged stress hinders thinking and memory,' says Jääskeläinen.

The neuroscientist also sees social media as a challenge. 'Social media is really nothing but multitasking, with several parallel plots and issues. You might end up reading the news or playing a game recommended by a friend. From the brain's perspective, social media only increases the load.' In addition to Jääskeläinen, Juha Lahnakoski from Max Planck Institute, Mikko Sams from Aalto University and Lauri Nummenmaa from the University of Turku participated in the research.

 

Source: Aalto University

29.04.2017

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Neuroscience

"Neuropixels" neural probe to map brain activity

Imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, released and is making available its state-of-the-art high-density neural probe, Neuropixels, to the…

Glucose metabolism

Sugar and stress: how are they connected?

Chronic stress is a well-known risk factor for the development of psychiatric illnesses including depression disorders. The brain requires a great deal of glucose, and stress is known to alter…

Mysterious blackout

What happens when we lose consciousness during anaesthesia?

The first successful surgery under anaesthesia occurred in the 1840s. Since then—more than 170 years later—people have been developing theories about what might be going on in the brain while a…

Related products

Research use only (RUO)

Eppendorf - Mastercycler nexus X2

Eppendorf AG

Research use only (RUO)

SARSTEDT - Low DNA Binding Micro Tubes

SARSTEDT AG & CO.

Research use only (RUO)

Shimadzu - CLAM-2000

Shimadzu Europa GmbH