You may think of "multitasking" as a skill that our super-wired world demands of us, as it insists that we listen to our iPods, text our friends, and check our email all at once. But if you have suffered a brain injury, you may have discovered that multitasking comes into play in performing the most basic activities of daily living, like shopping or cooking or driving a car. Basically, you multitask whenever you are doing or paying attention to several things at once. Your brain, however, is set up so that you cannot actually do several things simultaneously; instead, you toggle back and forth between different activities, and this requires your brain to plan, prioritize, and manage multiple goals. Depending on which parts of your brain are injured, multitasking might be challenging, and you might benefit from rehabilitation activities that help your brain to regain its ability to multitask effectively.
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Virtual Reality Training
Virtual reality is a simulated environment created by advanced technologies that you perceive as being like a "real world" when you interact with it. Virtual reality can provide you with an opportunity to practice multitasking skills in a controlled environment that resembles an environment you would encounter in your daily life. For example, a recent study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy evaluated the use of a virtual supermarket to help stroke patients practice their multitasking skills while trying out different kinds of shopping tasks in a virtual mall. For one task, the patients in the study "entered" the virtual mall and were charged with buying six items, finding out four pieces of information, and then meeting the tester at the correct time and place.
After a brain injury, you may experience difficulty with visual multitasking--the ability to pay attention to both your central field of vision and your peripheral vision. You may experience a form of tunnel vision in which you can only see one thing at a time, ignoring your peripheral vision. The ability to be aware of objects in your peripheral visual field is critical to your safety when you cross a busy street or drive a car. The Dynavision is a device used in therapy to help patients regain their ability to pay attention to both central and peripheral vision. It consists of a board with lighted buttons that can support dynamic visual training exercises in which the patient must strike a button as it lights up. This training redevelops your ability to pay attention to an unpredictable visual field and to rapidly notice changes on the edges of your vision.
Home-Based Rehabilitation Activities
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has developed a home-based cognitive stimulation program that you can access on the Internet. The program groups activities according to the skills they develop. For example, the section on "Attention and Concentration Skills" gives detailed instructions for 45 different kinds of activities that you can do at home to work on these skills, such as playing cards, preparing a meal, writing down the sequence of steps involved in completing a task, and many others.