Perform two tasks at the same time


The ability to do two or more things at the same time (multitasking) is often disturbed after brain injury. Such an invisible consequence of brain injury has a huge impact on daily life.


Divided attention

Multitasking is part of distributing attention. Focusing on multiple things at the same time is a cognitive task. Being able to deliver divided attention is needed for many everyday matters and tasks. For example, cooking with several pans on the hob, driving while listening to the radio, reading the subtitles from the television and being able to follow the film at the same time, making a  call and making notes, telephoning and cooking, listening to someone while simultaneously thinking about your answer.

For some people, multitasking has become an automatism through much practice, making it easy. But for many healthy people (certainly also for men), it is already a challenge.


Too much

These examples are also the examples where things can go wrong in people with brain injury. Walking and talking at the same time, thinking and acting at the same time, listening and acting at the same time are cognitively tiring things.

A person can be completely upset if the brain suddenly has to do two tasks at the same time. The person may have lost the cohesion and can then complete the task with great difficulty or not.
If a background noise is added, it can suddenly be too much for the brain. That is often where the irritation begins.
Particularly if the person with brain injury is part of a family or a company, the normal background noise can (suddenly) be too much.

In addition, the delayed information processing plays a major role. The overview of what needs to be done and at the same time monitoring the time (executive functions). Many areas of the brain are deployed at the same time, with the brain area where the injury is delayed. On the page attention and concentration, we explain the different areas of the brain that are involved in this.

In case the person is also sensitive to stimuli, visual stimuli (for example patterns, light, shadows, a multitude of things), smells, sounds, touches can be too much and can lead to overstimulation. Having to process a sensory stimulus is already a second task for the brain.


Fatigue always plays a role

If a person experiences problems with attention and concentration, she or he will notice that things are going better at one moment than at another. This can, for example, depend on the time, whether someone has had a busy day, or whether he or she is tired.

On the other hand, it can be impossible to do two things at the same time (multitasking) whether someone is feeling tired or fit. But in general it applies that people with brain injury are tired faster and that tasks then become (even) more difficult.

Tiredness, headache, dizziness and other physical concerns always lead to lower levels of performance.


Take into account

It is of the utmost importance that family members and people in the area, for example colleagues, recognize these invisible consequences. So that someone can be given tasks that can be performed at their own pace, without time pressure and without distracting factors.
People with brain injury can give thousands of examples of combinations of tasks that can no longer be performed together, and that can lead to enormous overload and even exhaustion.
Try to take this into account.


Kind of brain injury

People with a traumatic brain injury in particular have problems with attention tasks that have to be performed under time pressure (focused and distributed attention).

Approximately 40% of people with stroke show some disturbances and limitations in attentional functions.