London . While hard physical exertion can make you tired, researchers have discovered that even after hours of hard thinking, a person feels tired. The findings, reported in Current Biology, showed that when intense cognitive tasks are performed for several hours, it creates potentially toxic by-products in a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex.
This in turn shifts your control over decisions, explained researchers at the University of Pieté-Salpetriere in Paris, France, so you turn to low-cost actions that require little to no effort or waiting because of cognitive fatigue. is set.
“Influential theories suggest that fatigue is a kind of illusion that is produced by the brain to stop what we are doing and turn to a more gratifying activity,” said Mathias Peciglione from the university.
He adds, “But our findings suggest that cognitive function results in a true functional change.”
The team wanted to understand what mental fatigue really is.
To find out, they used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to monitor brain chemistry over the course of a workday. They looked at two groups of people, those who needed to think hard and those who had relatively easy cognitive tasks.
They saw signs of fatigue, including a decrease in pupil dilation, only in the hard-working group. People in that group also showed a shift in their choices towards alternatives that offered rewards at a shorter delay with little effort. Crucially, they also had higher levels of glutamate in the synapses of the brain’s prefrontal cortex.
Together with earlier evidence, the team notes that this supports the notion that glutamate accumulation makes activation of the prefrontal cortex more difficult, such that cognitive control is more difficult after a mentally difficult workday.
Paciglione also advises people to avoid making important decisions when they are tired.
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