Brain scans could help scientists uncover mechanisms underlying mental fatigue
We all know what mental fatigue feels like, but what underlies this feeling?
Mental fatigue has become common place it seems, as many people work long hours, commute longer and have less time to relax and sleep.
Researchers have used fMRI to monitor activity in the brains of volunteers who were deprived of sleep for 25 hours, and given a simple task throughout that period. Scans were carried out at several times during the day of sleep deprivation, and the following day.
Sleep deprivation caused an increase in thalamus activity and a decrease in inferior parietal activity - the researchers hypothesise that the thalamus seemed to be taking over from the inferior parietal to get information from different sensory modalities sent through the brain properly. The researchers also observed a gradual decrease in activity in many different regions of the brain as well; areas thought to be associated with motivation, cognition and action. This seems about right, as effects on motivation, cognition and action are all associated with tiredness, and so it does seem that the researchers may have found some key areas for further study and research into mental fatigue.
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