Saturday, March 24, 2007

Do you pride yourself on being a magnificent multitasker?
Do you feel as though you can accomplish everything on your list only if you multitask?

There are more and more studies being done about how the brain operates when we are doing more than one thing at a time. Concern over the safety of using cell phones while driving has spurred some of the research. People are talking on their phone, eating or smoking, and driving all at the same time. There is no wonder that errors of judgement are occurring, causing traffic collisions.

Rene Marois and Paul Dux, scientists at Vanderbilt University, have found in their research that even though it seems as though we are able to do two things at once, our brain actually shuts down one of the functions briefly as we're performing the other task. They described it as having all the information in our brain suddenly hitting a bottleneck. This delay is know as dual-task interference.

They have located the bottleneck by using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technology that shows what areas of the brain are active in mental tasks by mapping changes in the blood's oxygen levels. The scientists studied the brain activity of their subjects who were performing two demanding tasks.

They could see that the neural response to the second task was postponed until the response to the first was completed. Still to be determined is what is actually happening in this "bottleneck" of the brain that is slowing performance.

What does this mean to you as you're working to increase your productivity?

* You may overlook obvious solutions.
* Your creativity will not be accessed completely.
* Most likely work will need to be redone due to errors.
* Your anxiety level may increase.
* It will be difficult to have the satisfaction of a job well done.
* You'll probably miss what others are saying to you.
* You may not notice physical discomfort or tension until it is serious.

What is the solution?


Being mindful means focusing attention on what you're experiencing from moment to moment. It's quite a challenge to be mindful in our hectic world. Studies are showing us that mindfulness is a worthwhile habit to develop.

At the Mind/Body Medical Institute ( and the University of Wisconsin, they found that after mindfulness training, brain wave recordings showed a pattern of activity greater in the left prefrontal cortex that is associated with happiness and optimism. Mindfulness also influenced the immune system of those in the study. The mindfulness students produced more antibodies than the controls.

All of these studies are showing us that multitasking is not the panacea that so many of us think it is to getting everything done.

Instead, we're hearing that mindfulness is a worthwhile habit to develop.
Our safety, happiness, and productivity depend on it!

If you are interested in keeping up with some of the latest research findings on the brain, I invite you to visit The Dana Foundation, and subscribe to
Brain in the News, their monthly publication.

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