Scientists say thinking too hard can actually make you tired

IIf you feel exhausted at the end of a stressful day at the office, you’re probably thinking too much.

The scientists analyzed the brain chemistry of two groups of people over an approximate workday. One group was given easy tasks, while the other group was asked to perform more demanding versions of the same cognitive tasks. Signs of fatigue, such as decreased pupil dilation, were observed only in the group performing the more complex tasks.

Read more: Forget Physique. Mental health is the newest, hottest physical goal

Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, researchers from the University Hospital Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris found that highly demanding cognitive work leads to the accumulation of glutamate – a chemical that cells neurons use to transmit signals to other cells – in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. Managing redundancy makes other activities of the prefrontal cortex, such as planning and decision-making, more difficult, causing subjects to prefer low-effort and commendable actions. reward high when cognitive fatigue begins.

One of the study’s authors, Mathias Pessiglione, said previous theories suggested that fatigue is an illusion created by the brain to make us stop what we’re doing and switch to a more gratifying activity. “But our findings suggest that cognitive work leads to a real change in function – a build-up of toxic substances – so fatigue would actually be a signal that stops us from working, but for a different purpose: to maintain the integrity of brain activity.”

The researchers say monitoring chemical changes in the prefrontal cortex could have practical implications, such as helping to detect severe mental fatigue to avoid burnout in the workplace.

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