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Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit for Multitasking 257

Posted by timothy
from the typing-sleeping-being-hungry-so-there dept.
suraj.sun writes with a story from LiveScience about just how much attention you can devote to each of the tasks on hand that scream for it: "The brain is set up to manage two tasks, but not more, a new study suggests. That's because, when faced with two tasks, a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. This division of labor allows a person to keep track of two tasks pretty readily, but if you throw in a third, things get a bit muddled. 'What really the results show is that we can readily divide tasking. We can cook, and at the same time talk on the phone, and switch back and forth between these two activities,' said study researcher Etienne Koechlin of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. 'However, we cannot multitask with more than two tasks.'"
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Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit for Multitasking

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  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @08:14AM (#31880662)

    I recall an article at Arstechnica about cell phone use while driving mentioning a study that found a minority of people are actually capable of multi-tasking while the rest are "bad at it". Oh yes, here we go:

    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/03/rare-supertaskers-balance-driving-and-cellphone-use.ars

  • by Skexis (1744642) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @08:20AM (#31880698)
    If you require constant attention to keep breathing, you have bigger problems than defining a task. But from TFA:

    Koechlin and his colleagues had 32 subjects complete a letter-matching task while they had their brains scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The subjects saw uppercase letters on a screen and had to determine whether those letters were presented in the correct order to spell out a certain word. They were given money if they performed the task with no errors.
    ...
    But then they made the task more difficult. In addition to uppercase letters, the subjects were also presented with lowercase letters, and had to switch back and forth between matching the uppercase letters to spell out, say, T-A-B-L-E-T, and lowercase letters to spell out t-a-b-l-e-t.
    ...
    To make things even more complicated, the researchers introduced a third letter-matching task. Here, they saw the subject's accuracy drop considerably. It was as though, once each hemisphere was occupied with managing one task, there was nowhere for the third task to go.

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