Study: Cognitive Fatigue Changes Functional Connectivity Within Brain's Fatigue Network

March 12, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

Cognitive fatigue, which is defined as a troublesome symptom among healthy and clinical populations, is a major research focus at Kessler Foundation.

Researchers at the Kessler Foundation have demonstrated that changes in the functional connectivity within the “fatigue network” in response to cognitive fatigue, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Cognitive fatigue, which is defined as a troublesome symptom among healthy and clinical populations, is a major research focus at Kessler Foundation, according to the press release.

This study focused on exploring the “fatigue network,” which is a set of brain regions associated with cognitive fatigue. This network is comprised of the striatum of the basal ganglia, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex, and the anterior sula, according to the study. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of cognitive fatigue is essential to the development of effective interventions for people with disabling fatigue caused by multiple sclerosis, Gulf War Illness, brain injury, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other conditions.

The researchers induced cognitive fatigue in 39 healthy volunteers while they underwent a functional MRI of their brain activation patterns. The participants’ fatigue in response to multiple runs of challenging tasks of working memory was measured using a visual analogue scale of fatigue. The team found that as cognitive fatigue increased, there was a decline in the connectivity among the regions that make up the fatigue network, and an increase in connectivity between the network and more posterior regions, according to the study.

“Our findings provide further evidence for a functionally connected ‘fatigue network’ in the brain. More importantly, we have shown for the first time that this functional network connectivity changes in association with cognitive fatigue,” said study author Glenn Wylie, DPhil, in a press release. “This promises to accelerate progress toward effective interventions aimed at relieving debilitating fatigue.”

REFERENCE

Scientists show that cognitive fatigue changes functional connectivity within brain’s fatigue network. Kessler Foundation. https://kesslerfoundation.org/press-release/scientists-show-cognitive-fatigue-changes-functional-connectivity-within-brains. Published March 8, 2021. Accessed March 9, 2021.