I was chatting with a contact today who mentioned something I did not yet know about the brain. She mentioned that multi-tasking has been proven to damage our mental health. She referred to the ways neural pathways are activated while multi-tasking. When you multi-task, the synapses that fire at these times are at risk of being affected by the similar changes observed in dementia patients. The reason for this is because our nervous system conducts regular synaptic pruning which is thought to be the brain's way of removing connections in the brain that are no longer needed. Whoops, you actually might have needed to keep some of these connections but they weren't fully developed and robust enough to be kept during the brains maintenance process!
Wow. I wondered if this is why it seems more women than men are affected by dementia. (Sorry guys, it has been noticed by some scientifically minded folks that most males are not as competent at multi-tasking compared to most women.)
I checked online and discovered that indeed, more women than men are affected by dementia - the ratio is 2:1!
I spent a few minutes looking for a study that was easy enough to read on this subject and came up with this article: Multicosts of Multitasking
The subtitle of their article is: "What happens to your brain when you multitask? Does your brain slow down? Do you feel increased levels of stress? Why are some people better at it than others? Our authors supply the answers to some of these questions and provide the latest on what happens to the brain when you try to handle more than one task at a time."
They, and many other articles that came up in my search, make this important point: "With the explosion of digital media and the commodification of our attention (referred to as the "attention economy", “media multitasking” has become ubiquitous."
Have you noticed that many of us working from home have increased pressures due to varying levels of distractions in our environments plus new technology to master. Perhaps we should all be paying attention to these findings. Even if you are able to multi-task rather successfully, I'm sure you wouldn't disagree we'd be more effective by reducing distractions and focussing on one task at a time whenever possible. It seems there's proof that we would have better memory. Ask yourself: how many more people have you heard complain about poor memory compared to a few years ago? Are you one of them? How many individuals exclaim they have 'Covid-brain' for their current and seemingly sudden lack of short term memory in the last several months (even if they haven't been ill with the virus)?
I hope you take time to think about this quiet and growing challenge. You may decide to reduce multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is defined as "trying to perform two or more tasks concurrently, which typically leads to repeatedly switching between tasks (i.e., task switching) but actually means leaving one task unfinished in order to do another because your human mind and brain lack the architecture to perform two or more tasks simultaneously."
Sounds exhausting when you put it in the perspective of stopping and starting something repetitively until it is completed. Is THAT why we're all tired these days?
When you have a reason for doing something differently, it's easier to adopt new habits. Will this be one of them? I plan to turn off technology and go play outside a bit more. How about you?
What are your thoughts and opinions?
by Denise Cambiotti
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