Neuroscience|Multitasking Potentially Causes Brain Damage

Empirical research has demonstrated that multitasking comes with the byproduct of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, ADHD and other symptoms.


Time is limited and we have seen people tackle the day’s assignments all at once, especially the office works who execute complex multiple activities simultaneously every single day for the sake of work efficiency. Those who work several projects simultaneously repeatedly switching from one project to another. They impair their brain without awareness and they label their bad performance in the name of carelessness or aging. 


Turning on the computer and opening a dozen pages at the same time was my daily schedule. Returning the email while answering the phone can be the daily routine for many office workers.  Do our brain design for multi-tasking?  Studies confirmed that the brain consumes a lot of energy when switching between different tasks, which damages our IQ and memory. Significantly, the higher complexity of multitasks promises greater brain damage.



Film “Coffee Town “


“Numerous studies have indicated that people who put in too many hours at their jobs, either by choice or by requirement, become inefficient. With rare exceptions, they burn out and lose their creative edge.” ― S.J. Scott, Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking


The term multitask was coined in 1965, which described the capabilities of a new computer system. Multitasking has become a common thing for office workers to stay competitive at work. Many employees even list their “ability to multitask” on their resume and job applications.


Multitasking divides our attention, which has a huge negative impact on your attentiveness based on scientific data. Studies proposed that heavy media multitaskers favor parallel processing of multiple information sources over one primary task. Studies found that heavy media multitaskers performed worse than light media multitaskers for their brain cost more energy on filtering out irrelevant information in the process.


multitask 一詞是1965年提出的,對於辦公室工作人員來說,已成為一種常見的事,以使其在工作中保持競爭力。許多員工甚至在簡歷和工作申請表中列出 “the ability to multitask” 但一心多用同時處理多項任務不單單分散了我們的注意力和降低工作效率而已!根據科學數據,這會您的注意力造成巨大負面影響。研究發現同時處理多個信息源,會使大腦在過濾過程中過濾掉無關的信息時會花費更多的精力。




# 破壞工作表現,注意力和記憶力








What are the potential costs of multitasking?

1. Studies show that it kills your performance, concentration and memory.  

Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are bombarded with streams of electronic information on a regular basis proved to show a lower ability of concentration and memory.


Stanford researchers compared groups of people and found that heavy multitaskers, literally those who multitask a lot for the sake of overall performance were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. Additionally, the study found that talking on the phone while driving shares the same level of distraction similar to drunk driving


2. Studies found that multitasking lowers people’s IQ

A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines, which is similar to the effect of smoking marijuana or staying up all night. Studies found that the worse likelihood is that your cognitive capacity might diminish to the point of an 8-year-old child.


3. Cognitive impairment from multitasking was not temporary.

Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices and scan their brains with MRI. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, where is the region responsible for EQ, including empathy, cognition and emotional control. At any rate, the negative effects of multitasking are assured. Further, researches suggest that multitasking does lower your EQ in the process.


4. Multitasking slows you down and damages your productivity

Experts estimate that switching between tasks causes a 40% loss in productivity.


Every interruption costs the brain another five minutes to get back into the workflow you were in before the interruption. People who multitask aim to “to be more productive” or “to get more done in less time” but ironically multitasking could only make people less productive. There are studies that estimated the cost of multitasking costs in the United States’ economy reaches $650 billion annually in wasted productivity.


5. Multitasking cost you much more errors and mistakes

Multi-tasking lower your attention span and worse memory cause more mistakes i. Studies found that switching tasks repeatedly disrupts short-term memory and cause temporarily reduces IQ by 15 points.

Studies found that subjects who were given 3 tasks made three times as many errors as those given only 2 tasks.


6. Multitasking guarantees lower creativity and emotional intelligence.

Dr. Clifford Nass, the author of The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, he asserts that the more you multitask, the less you’re able to learn, concentrate, or be nice to people. He firmly believes multitasking stunts emotional intelligence and makes us less creative. Multitasking lower your ability to problem-solve and damage your creativity. Serious multitaskers have less brain density in the area of the brain in which is responsible for emotional control. Studies found that multitaskers encounter the difficulty of organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information.


▲According to the info of RAC Foundation, a British motoring research charity, texting while driving decreases 91%reaction time. That’s a terrifying number.


▲A pedestrian’s field of vision reduced 95% when using an electronic device as he walks. There’s a term called “inattentional blindness.”

Dopamine makes you feel good

According to Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at McGill University, multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop. In Levitin’s book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, he asserts that continually checking email, Facebook, or Twitter are behaviors of addiction. In a sense, people who favor multi-tasking seek new external sources or projects for the sake of new stimulation, new excitement.



Analyze Multitasking by Psychology

If we accomplish one task after one, the stress on our shoulder goes down one after another. And if we execute multitask for the day simultaneously, we are supposed to accomplish them all by the end of the day, so your stress level and anxiety level would be high during the whole day. And you might not get anything done by noon, cau’z every project might just half-done yet.


The intention and motive of multitasking in the course of the day are to accelerate the schedule but it’s just an illusion and it definitely makes you more tiresome without a good reason. You might question your self-ability for not accomplishing something by daytime.


Centering on a singular task assures that you are able to make a better decision in a relatively anxiety-free environment during the decision-making process. 

Excessive Multitasking: Warning Sign of  Addiction

When you multitask, your brain is rewarded with a burst of the neurotransmitter dopamine just as what you feel as you drink caffeine or have alcohol.


Q: How to kill the desire to multitask?

Practice mindfulness meditation. Block out distractions and make it a habit. 

image source 


Media Multitasking Induces Depression, Anxiety and More Stress 

Researchers found that young Americans have increased their time multitasking with media. Multitaskers tend to maximize their time but lower their efficiency without awareness.


1) Researchers from Michigan State University suggest using multiple forms of media leads to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Assistant professor of psychology at MSU Mark Becker found a strong association between media multitasking and mental health problems. Becker articulates “We don’t know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety” or more depressed and anxious people are turning to media multitasking to distraction from their mental problems.


The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, which surveyed 319 people on their media use and mental health.


2) Researchers found that increased media multitasking was associated with higher depression and social anxiety symptoms, which indicates the fact that that multitasking with media might accelerate the risk factor for human being’s mental health problems on a worldwide scale.


▲Extended issue: The cause and effect between multitasking of media and psychosocial dysfunction.


Power of focus: Cost of Distraction

Research confirms do more than one thing at once is stressful to the brain. Studies found that after only 20 minutes of interruptions, people feel more stress, pressure, and sense of frustration. For sure, the estimated time of finishing a certain project delayed. If we compare a project to an enemy, if we fight over an enemy one after another, we get higher chance of success than dealing with several enemies at a time. I would say it’s the power of focus.


Multitasking Contributes to Premature Brain Aging

▲Stress of all kinds decreases the length of telomeres, structures at the end of your chromosomes. What matters is that when telomeres reach a critically shortened length, the cell stops dividing and dies.  When the brain receives more information than it can process, posterior lateral prefrontal cortex (pLPFC) takes over.


▲According to Dr. Elissa Epel, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, stressful behaviors such as multitasking or anxiety shorten telomeres and promote brain cell aging. 


Shortened telomeres lead to the atrophy of brain cells, whereas longer telomere length leads to the production of new brain cells. The telomere length turns out to be one of the significant indicators of cellular aging, which proves to have strong connections with some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.


The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC or DL-PFC) is an area where is the endpoint for the dorsal pathway (stream), which is concerned with how to interact with stimuli.DLPFC is responsible for working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning, inhibition, and abstract reasoning. The DLPFC is also the highest cortical area, which involves motor planning, organization and regulation.


▲Brain scans reveal that chronic multitaskers have less gray matter, which is heavily linked to depression, anxiety, and poor impulse control.


Mono-task Guarantee You Full-Focus

The proficiency of surgery is the ability to focus on a single patient and complete a series of tasks, many surgeons claim that their most loved environment in the hospital is the operating room for it is the place free from the outside multitasking world.


Neuroscience: What makes multitaskers performed worse?

Since the structure of our brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time, people have trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information and were forced to switch from one task to another. In other words, people who do two things at once violates the function of the brain and physically damaging the brain with proofs.


Each time we switch between tasks we are losing time as our brain recalibrates to accommodate the switch. This is incredibly inefficient and time-consuming indeed. Some people found that  multitasking takes them 50-100% longer than the equivalent task without multitasking.”(Reference: The myth of multitasking, BY JANICE WINDT, 2018) 


How to improve your work performance?

Stop switching back and forth between different tasks and focus on one coherent task at a time. Switch in and out of the tasks makes your brain exhausted.


Conclusion: Be a serial tasker rather than a multitasker

Multitasking is detrimental to brain health, mental health and work performance. It’s such a commonplace thing that people engaged in multiple demanding activities at a time. Nevertheless, Multitasking proves to counterproductive. Multitasking does more harm than good, either to brain health or work performance.


Indeed, we are unable to multitask so much as we attempt to. Doing one thing at a time will make you sharper in mind and make your attention more focused and take you less total time than get two things in the meanwhile.


Aside from brain damage, multitask will multiply the difficulties of concentration, organization, and attention to detail during execution. Altogether, multitasking undermines all critical factors which promise success and efficiency. Give a task 100% of your attention. Do not check emails or surf the net or any other distraction for at least 50 minutes. 


Key points: Center on a singular task. Do not tackle multiple tough tasks simultaneously. It does you no good.

▲ADHD 中文:注意力不足過動症(全文:Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

▲ADD 中文:涵蓋注意力缺失症(全文:Attention Deficit Disorder)

▲Mono-task 中文:單一任務

▲chromosomes 中文 染色體

▲cellular aging 中文細胞衰老  

▲atrophy of brain cells 中文:腦細胞萎縮


Tag: neuroscientists studying, Dual tasking, mono-taskers, ocial anxiety, neuroticism and extraversion, negative impacts of increased media multitasking


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