What we know about cognitive fatigue

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In a pioneering study, researchers at Kessler Foundation have embarked on the first comprehensive examination of cognitive fatigue, exploring its impact across different groups.

This groundbreaking study was published in Scientific Reports.

The study’s primary aim was to assess and compare cognitive fatigue in three distinct groups: individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), those with traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a control group without these conditions.

The research involved 31 MS patients, 31 TBI patients, and 30 control participants. To induce and measure cognitive fatigue, the researchers employed two specific tasks: a working memory task and a processing speed task.

During these tasks, functional neuroimaging data were also collected to observe brain activity.

One of the key findings was that while the MS and TBI groups reported experiencing more cognitive fatigue compared to the control group, the accumulation of cognitive fatigue was consistent among all participants.

Furthermore, the level of cognitive fatigue remained stable across different tasks. This suggests that cognitive fatigue is a general state that occurs following mental exertion, rather than being tied to specific types of cognitive tasks.

Another significant observation was the relationship between increased cognitive fatigue and slower response times in the tasks across all groups. This correlation highlights how cognitive fatigue can impact behavioral performance.

The neuroimaging data provided additional insights. It showed consistent activation in the caudate nucleus and thalamus in relation to cognitive fatigue levels in all three groups.

This finding emphasizes the importance of these brain regions in the experience of cognitive fatigue.

Interestingly, the study also noted variations in the activation patterns more dorsally in the caudate nucleus, suggesting that this region’s response might vary depending on the type of brain injury or disease present.

Dr. Wylie, who heads the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center, emphasized the significance of these findings.

By demonstrating that cognitive fatigue is a state that is not dependent on the type of task, the study opens new avenues for developing strategies to manage cognitive fatigue.

This is crucial because cognitive fatigue can severely impact daily functioning and quality of life for individuals with brain injuries or diseases.

The insights from this study offer hope for better understanding and managing this challenging condition, ultimately improving the lives of those affected.

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The research findings can be found in Scientific Reports.

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