Mental fatigue correlates with depression of task-related network and increased DMN activity but spares the reward circuit

Description: Long-lasting and demanding cognitive activity typically leads to mental fatigue (MF). Indirect evidence suggests that MF may be caused by altered motivational processes. Here, we hypothesized that if MF consists in an alteration of motivational states, brain functional changes induced by MF could specifically affect the brain motivation circuit. In order to test this hypothesis, we devised a functional neuroimaging protocol to detect altered brain activity in reward-related brain regions in relation to cognitively induced mental fatigue. Twenty-five healthy participants underwent a FATIGUE and a CONTROL session on different days. In the FATIGUE session, MF was induced by performing a demanding cognitive task (adapted Stroop task) during 90 minutes, whereas in the CONTROL session, participants were asked to read magazines for the same period of time. We measured the neural consequences of the MF induction during a working memory task (Missing Number task) while modulating extrinsic motivation with block-wise variations in monetary reward. We also tracked participants’ momentary fatigue, anxiety state and intrinsic motivation prior to and following the MF inducement and measurement. Accuracy on the Missing Number Task was lower in the FATIGUE than in the CONTROL condition. Furthermore, subjective MF, but not its behavioral manifestations, was associated with hypoactivity of the task-evoked neural responses. Importantly, activity in regions modulated by reward showed no differences between FATIGUE and CONTROL sessions. In parallel, subjective MF correlated with increased on-task activity and resting-state functional connectivity in the default mode network. These results indicate that subjective mental fatigue is not associated with altered activity in the brain motivation circuit but rather with hypoactivity in task-specific brain regions as well as relative increases of activity and connectivity in the default mode network during and after the task.

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Add DateAug. 2, 2021, 10:49 a.m.
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