Multitasking has long been one of our most sought-after traits. But is multitasking possible? Uncover your full potential through the power of genomic science.
Most of us would like to believe that we are good multitaskers. We would probably be wrong.
Firstly, the brain is doing task-switching, going back and forth between tasks but not performing the tasks entirely simultaneously. However, we can certainly physically execute two jobs simultaneously, like driving and texting (the worst type of multitasking).
Performing multiple tasks at once is revered as the ultimate in pure efficiency. In reality, attempting to complete more than one simultaneous task raises the likelihood that both tasks will be executed poorly.
The human brain isn’t structured for multitasking, but some people are far better at it. This disparity in levels of efficiency might have a genetic component.
The ability of our brains to stay focused and flexible to changes is linked to a gene known as the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT). This gene is important for our neurobiology because it influences our dopamine production.
Dopamine is the reward response chemical – it makes us feel good. Apart from the feel-good aspect, dopamine might affect our ability to focus. However, it might make our brains less flexible. Additionally, a single mutation in the COMT gene can change our dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex. This means that the COMT gene might directly affect our multitasking capabilities.
A 2010 study published in Neuropsychologia examined how the COMT gene variant among healthy Dutch individuals affects the speed and accuracy of performing the experimental task-switching activity. The investigators found that those who had both copies of the COMT gene with the amino acid valine had significantly faster reaction times than those with a variant that substitutes valine with methionine (Met/-carriers, who tend to have higher dopamine levels).
These results are largely consistent with what we know about how the COMT gene may affect cognitive control; the outcomes support what has already been found in human and animal studies about the gene. Since major factors that may have affected performance (including age, sex, and estimated IQ) did not differ significantly between the two genotype groups, this further strengthens the validity of the finding.
This study is by no means definitive. However, although the study has a very limited sample size of 92 people, it provides useful additional evidence about the possible role of the COMT gene in our cognitive flexibility.
Want to know if you have the multitasking gene? If you’ve taken an at-home DNA test, you can use your test results to uncover a treasure trove of genetic information!
Simply download your raw DNA file from your genetic testing provider (AncestryDNA, 23andMe, etc.). Once you have your information, you can upload it to the Genomelink site for an in-depth report on your genetic profile.
Want to learn more about how your genes influence your personality? Sign up with Genomelink today!