Motivated Multitasking: How the Brain Keeps Tabs on Two Tasks at Once

Katherine Harmon:

New research shows that rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind–if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so
The human brain is considered to be pretty quick, but it lacks many of qualities of a super-efficient computer. For instance, we have trouble switching between tasks and cannot seem to actually do more than one thing at a time. So despite the increasing options–and demands–to multitask, our brains seem to have trouble keeping tabs on many activities at once.
A new study, however, illustrates how the brain can simultaneously keep track of two separate goals, even while it is busy performing a task related to one of the aims, hinting that the mind might be better at multitasking than previously thought.
“This is the first time we observe in the brain concurrent representations of distinct rewards,” Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in Paris and coauthor of the new study, wrote in an email to