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Mental & physical fatigue

Mental, physical, … fatigue is experienced in many ways, nevertheless little is known on how these different forms of fatigue interact. The interest in the interaction between mental and physical fatigue rose a couple of years ago, with Marcora and colleagues publishing some interesting results in 2009. They reported a decrease in physical performance due to a 90min mentally fatiguing task, however no differences were found in the classical peripheral parameters (heart rate, blood lactate, cardiac output) that could explain the decrease in physical performance. Therefore the search for the link between both forms of fatigue could begin and this research line was developed.

In an attempt to unravel this link, the research line logically focusses on physical performance in a mentally fatigued state, with changes in brain activity being an important parameter. This lab uses electroencephalography-equipment (EEG) for some time now and as it has already been reported in the literature mental fatigue coincides with changes in activity in different brain regions (e.g. anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and frontal cortex). This is a promising research technique that can give us new insights in mental fatigue and its link with physical fatigue.

Researching the brain as a possible link between mental and physical fatigue is also a research purpose that is developed based on the research line of Prof. Dr. Romain Meeusen and Prof. Dr. Bart Roelands, who showed that manipulating certain neurotransmitter systems (that especially exert their effect in the brain) can affect physical performance. Besides this, Pageaux and colleaques (2014, 2015) have also put forward an accumulation of adenosine (an inhibiting neurotransmitter) in the ACC as a possible cause for the occurrence of mental fatigue.

Enough indications to extensively screen the brain as a possible link between mental and physical fatigue and to explore the possible role of certain neurotransmitters as dopamine and noradrenaline in this. On top of that we want to determine whether different climatological conditions have an influence on the interaction between both forms of fatigue.

Author: Jeroen Van Cutsem

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