For all those multi-tasking naysayers out there, it seems there’s a small minority of people who are, in fact, adept at juggling more than one task at once. It’s all in how their brains work.

For the majority of us, multitasking causes our prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex (the parts of the brain that allow us to perform different functions at the same time) to spike in activity or ‘heat up’ as each tries to focus on multiple activities. But for ‘Super Multi-Taskers,’ as they’re called, these same parts of the brain actually show reduced activity, thereby remaining ‘cool’ under pressure. Researchers explain this as an inherent ability that Super Multi-Taskers have, which is characterized as having a higher-than-normal neural efficiency.

To test their ability, Researcher’s had a group they deemed Super Multi-Tasker’s (a group of individuals who were previously found to have the ability to multi-task at a significantly high level) perform a multitask challenge. The participants had to watch a screen and keep track of the changing positions of a blue square and at the same time they had to listen and keep track of a stream of letters that were played over headphones. The goal of the task for the participants was they had to remember the order of square locations and letter pronunciations and spot whenever there was a relevant match between the audio and visual.

During the testing, the research team studied the two regions of the brain involved in multitasking: the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The scientists found that as the multitasking became more difficult, the Super Multi-Taskers’ brains stayed cool (a normal person’s brain would heat up). The researchers say the reason for their brains staying cool is that they likely have a higher than normal neural efficiency.

Are you one of these Super Multi-Taskers who can handle multiple projects without dropping the ball? Or do you need to focus on one task at a time? Share your most efficient work strategies with us in the comments.



Science of Us: How the Brains of ‘Super-Multitaskers’ Are Different