Woman juggling several tasks Woman juggling several tasks How does she manage it all? We may think we are multitasking, but our brains tell a different story. (Photo: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock)

Here's more evidence that multitasking might not work

You may be able to perform more than one task at the same time, but not very well, new research says.

You might think you're a master of multitasking, but it's a finite skill that few can really possess – because your brain simply stops responding to new tasks once it's reached full capacity, a new study suggests.

Researchers from University College London have used a new brain-scan method that shows the energy usage of nerve cells. Led by Israeli-born neuroscientist Nilli Lavie, they found that when you're struggling to juggle multiple tasks in one time frame, it might be because your brain has been capped at a certain level of attention.

While building on a wealth of previous research on the topic of multitasking, Lavie's findings also bolster the results of the world-famous "Invisible Gorilla" Awareness test, as seen in the video below:

In Lavie's study, participants performed a visual task with varying degrees of difficulty while also being shown a flickering checkerboard pattern in their periphery. The results showed that when the main task was easy, the brain cells fired faster. But when the main task was difficult, the change in brain cell activity measured little to none. Thus, “You suppress things you’re not attending to,” said Lavie, a graduate of Tel Aviv University.

There's tons of research out there measuring the effects of multitasking or task switching on the brain, which mainly add up to one takeaway: multitasking is more of a drain on resources than an efficient time-saving method. It actually slows you down and makes you perform tasks less efficiently.

70% of people in a recent survey admitted to using their phones while driving. When driving, multitasking can be dangerous. (Photo: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock)

"The prefrontal cortex can only do one thing at a time, so you get this bottleneck effect," said Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, a communication studies professor at West Virginia University who was not involved in Lavie's study. "All of the backup is slowing down how much you are able to process."


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