Brain Drain: Scientists Look at Why Mental Exertion Triggers Exhaustion

It’s a familiar feeling on a Friday evening. After finishing a gruelling day’s work, you finally agree with friends on where to meet for a night out. But by the time you have figured out what to wear and where you left your keys, a night on the sofa begins to sound more appealing than one on the tiles.

Now, scientists think they may be able to explain why you feel so weary before you have even reached the bus stop: your brain has slowed down to manage the strain. The brain could suffer from something similar to the painful buildup of lactate in muscles during physical exercise. This could be why hard mental yards – and resisting the temptation to give up throughout the day – feel equally taxing.

Prolonged mental activity leads to the accumulation of a potentially toxic neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex, according to a study published in Current Biology. The researchers suggest the brain slows down its activity to manage the buildup, offering an explanation to why we feel tired.

“Even when you resist scratching an itch, for example, your brain is exerting cognitive control,” said Antonius Wiehler of the Paris Brain Institute, the first author of the study. Repeated demands on cognitive control functions can lead to fatigue, he said. The prefrontal cortex is the region of decision-making and cognitive control, which is applied when the brain overrides an impulse or fights any kind of temptation.

The team monitored the brain chemistry of 40 participants while they completed repetitive tasks on a computer. They formed two groups, who performed either hard tasks or easy tasks for over six hours. The researchers measured levels of a neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex. They found a greater accumulation of glutamate in participants who were given the harder tasks.

Work that involves a lot of thinking requires the brain to repeatedly resist the temptation to do something less demanding. Unsurprisingly, this can leave people feeling tired, but the brain chemistry behind it has remained unclear. Now, researchers suggest cognitive control may lead to the accumulation of glutamate in the brain – of which high levels can be harmful because it overexcites neural cells.

“We found that glutamate was accumulating in the region of the brain which controls the tasks we set participants,” said Wiehler. “Our understanding is that the brain has some kind of clearance mechanism to counteract this, which may slow down activity.” The researchers posit that mental fatigue could be linked to recycling the glutamate that builds up during neural activity. “The accumulated glutamate needs to be cleared away, which we think is likely happening during sleep,” said Wiehler.

When participants were asked to report their level of fatigue, no definitive link between glutamate and fatigue was found – the groups performing hard and easy tasks recorded the same tiredness. Researchers said this could be due to fatigue being subjective, and those doing the easy task were unaware of the difficulty of the other.

“The fact that glutamate levels don’t track the reported fatigue is slightly disappointing, but not surprising because there is often a dissociation between biological features and self-reported fatigue,” said Dr Anna Kuppuswamy from the Institute of Neurology at University College London, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers monitored only glutamate but suggest other related substances could be linked to fatigue. “The study measures a single neurotransmitter in a very specific part of the brain, so we have to look at it more globally,” said Kuppuswamy.

But the results were encouraging, she added. “We know that during physical exercise lactate accumulates in the muscles, leading to muscle fatigue. It is kind of intuitive that something similar happens in the brain and this is good first evidence to suggest that.”


Source: Brain drain: scientists look at why mental exertion triggers exhaustion | Neuroscience | The Guardian


Mental exhaustion is a feeling of extreme tiredness, characterized by other feelings including apathy, cynicism, and irritability. You may be mentally exhausted if you’ve recently undergone long-term stress, find it hard to focus on tasks or lack interest in activities you usually enjoy.

Mental exhaustion often happens as a result of overuse, like physical overuse injuries. Even though you can’t point to it, it has more in common with repetitive stress injuries, like carpal tunnel or tennis elbow. Rather than overstressing a muscle group, mental and emotional exhaustion come from overstressing your mind.

Mental exhaustion is completely possible and is probably more common than it should be. After a long period of stress or time of intense emotions, mental exhaustion is bound to happen. Just like our bodies show symptoms after we push too hard, our minds are bound to display signs of mental exhaustion if we don’t take proper care.

Mental exhaustion can be caused by many things. Typically, though, people feel mentally tired after experiencing long-term stress. This is especially true if the stressors increase a person’s cognitive load or reduce their resources. 

For example, you may be responsible for completing a challenging project with many moving parts and tradeoffs. This would require a high level of project management skills and political savvy (e.g., increased load). 

Another example would be traveling for work. Constantly changing time zones would leave you feeling jet-lagged (reduced resources). Many stressors involve both reduced resources and increased load. 

Work travel to an unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language amps up the cognitive load. Taking care of a sick family member may involve coordinating medical care and interpreting unfamiliar terms while managing emotions (increased load). But you may also be getting less sleep (reduced resources). Over time, increased responsibility and stress plus poor self-care can result in mental exhaustion.

Though a wide variety of stressors can cause you to feel mentally drained, we’ve boiled down the 7 most common causes of mental exhaustion below. 

1. Chronic stress

This is the most frequent cause of mental exhaustion. Chronic stress keeps your brain — and body — on high alert all the time. Over time, this begins to wear away at your well-being. Chronic stress can also lead to empathy or compassion fatigue. It can become difficult to muster an emotional response to the constant strain.

2. Uncertainty

The human stress response was designed to work efficiently in the face of short-term stress (think fight-or-flight). However, it’s a much less effective response to a constant, nagging feeling of uncertainty. Unfortunately, uncertainty has become far too normal of a feeling since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. This has made mental exhaustion more common than ever. 

3. Work stress

Stress at work can take many forms. It can arise from a values mismatch, difficulty managing tasks and priorities, or a high-demand, risk-oriented job. Some jobs (or programs of study) involve a lot of new learning. They could also require processing and making sense of a lot of information. Whatever the reason, it’s not always possible to leave work at work. Left unchecked, workplace stress can even evolve into burnout. Your work stress could bleed into your weekends and ultimately, develop into a bad case of the Sunday scaries

4. Family issues

Few things are more stressful than worrying about a family member. Being a caregiver for young children, sick relatives, or aging parents can be mentally taxing. Even if everyone’s healthy, families can bring all kinds of stressors. Divorce, disagreements, and estrangements have a way of following you into all areas of your life. Ultimately, family troubles can be a big cause of mental exhaustion.

5. Juggling multiple commitments

In addition to caring for family, many people have other commitments on their plate — those commitments come with details, schedules, logistics, and challenges. Balancing an intensive school or training program, a second job, or a freelance business can leave you feeling like you’re never “off.” If you’re not able to, or don’t know how to, manage your priorities, you’re at risk of becoming mentally drained.

6. Emotional stress

There are dozens of things that can cause emotional stress. No matter the cause, the experience is similar. Constant negative feelings, events, and circumstances can make it difficult to relax. This emotional exhaustion can quickly lead to mental fatigue.

7. Poor self-care

Without gas in the tank, you won’t get very far. When you get busy or you’re feeling a bit down, it’s easy to neglect self-care. However, over time this will affect your ability to be resilient in the face of stressful situations. If you have a chronic illness, like multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog may be a side effect. Rather than pushing through, it’s important to be especially diligent about self-care.

Related contents:

Men’s mental health support group hosts inaugural event in Mistley GazetteCalorie count menus: why mental health experts in Birmingham have called for calorie-free menus … National World

20:30 Mon, 22 Aug
Stepping into a healthy lifestyle Warwickshire County Council (Press Release)
19:44 Mon, 22 Aug
12:45 Sat, 20 Aug
14:47 Sun, 21 Aug
Trust to offer mental health support to parents of seriously ill babies in pioneering scheme Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (Press Release)
19:39 Wed, 17 Aug
14:07 Wed, 17 Aug
09:47 Sun, 21 Aug
Mind responds to announcement of additional winter support for NHS Mind, the mental health charity (Press Release)
21:11 Fri, 12 Aug
12:26 Thu, 11 Aug
09:36 Thu, 11 Aug
21:10 Tue, 09 Aug

More Remote Working Apps:  Givvy Mobile Lottery     Quintex Capital   Genesis Mining  Bybit Crypto Trade   BevTraders  LiteTrading   Cash Box Money   Alpari Forex Trading   Dealcheck Real Estate Evaluator  prime stocks  forrk  keysearch  gluten free  diet fitness diabetes  writing job  postradamus  stoodaio  profile mate  senuke   asin  appimize  super backdrop  audiencetoolkit  4brandcommercial  talkingfaces  socifeed  gaming jobs   backlinkindexer  powrsuite  tubeserp  PR Rage  design beast  commission smasher  MT4Code System  viral dash  coursova  fanpage  forex expert  appointomatic  woocommerce  domainname  maxslides  ada leadz  eyeslick  creaitecontentcreator  vidcentric  studioninja  marketingblocks  clipsreel  VideoEnginePro  BarclaysForexExpert  Clientfinda  Talkingfaces  IMSyndicator  SqribbleEbook  superbackdrop  VirtualReel  MarketPresso  voiceBuddy  tubeTargeter  InstantWebsiteBundle  soronity  DFY Suite 3.0 Agency+ information  VideoRobot Enterprise  Klippyo Kreators  ChatterPal Commercial  WP GDPR Fix Elite Unltd Sites  EngagerMate  VidSnatcher Commercial  myMailIt  Storymate Luxury Edition  iTraffic X – Platinum Edition  Content Gorilla One-time  Push Button Traffic 3.0 – Brand New  SociCake Commercial  The Internet Marketing  Designa Suite License  XFUNNELS FE Commercial  ShopABot  Inboxr  MediaCloudPro 2.0 – Agency  MyTrafficJacker 2.0 Pro+  AIWA Commercial  Toon Video Maker Premium  Steven Alvey’s Signature Series  Fade To Black  Adsense Machine  Diddly Pay’s DLCM DFY Club  CourseReel Professional  SociJam System  360Apps Certification  LocalAgencyBox  Instant Website Bundle                                  GMB Magic Content  PlayerNeos VR  BrandElevate Bundle information BrandElevate Ultimate WowBackgraounds Plus  Your3DPal Ultimate  BigAudio Club Fast Pass Podcast Masterclass  VideoGameSuite Exclusive AffiliateMatic  YTSuite Advanced  Xinemax 2.0 Commercial  Living An Intentional Life  BrandElevate Bundle Ezy MultiStores  DFY Suite 4.0 Agency  ReVideo  AppOwls Bundle  TrafficForU  WOW Backgrounds 2.0   ALL-in-One HD Stock Bundle   Viddeyo Bundle  The Forex Joustar ADA Web Accessibility Compliance  10 Bold Actions In Positive Life & Work  Adtivate Agency   My Passive Income Blueprints  Content Tool Kit    ReviewReel     QR Verse Bundle    VIADZ Ad Template    EngageYard Ad Creator   Videevolve  Local Leader Bundle   Tonai Voice Content   Vocalic Commercial  Dropshiply Store Creator  Levidio Royal Podcasting  Develop Self Empowerment   Hostley Domain Creator   Mech Forex Robot   Motion Kingdom Studio   Forex Blizz Trading  AdRaven   Animaxime V2  Promovidz Promotion Videos  AffiliateMatic  CanvaKitz Business Templates  Agencyscale Business Agency  Pitchdeck Professional Presentations   YTSuite YouTube Ads Campaigns     Living an International Life    Galactic Dimension backgrounds    Xinemax Hollywood Creator   DFY Suite 4.0 Agency    Appowls Mobile Apps   Ezy Multi Stores  TrafficForU  WOW Backgrounds   Your 3DPal   Forex Joustar   Ultrafunnels A.I   DUX Forex Signals   Trendio Keyword Content  FX Goldminer  Linkomatic  Pixal 2.022   VidVoicer   Big Audio Club  Podcast Advantage  Reputor  TubePal  Local Sites   PodKastr Commercial Insta Keyword   Facedrip  7 Minutes Kit  Aweber Crash Course   WP Simulator  Podcast Advantage  Boost Optimism   PlanB Muscle Growth  TV Boss Fire  Webprimo Website Builder  LocalCentric  WebCop  Agency Client Finder  Power Reviews   Survai  Pixal  Webinarkit  YoDrive  Rewriter  Appoint B Agency   Sunday Freebie  EBook Agency  Ejaculation Total  Quit Smoking  Mobi First   Syndranker    VidMingo     Heal Your Emptiness     RSI SEO   Facebook Cash Machin   Video Games  KoinCart  Diabetes Guide  Fitness Nutrition Guide  Organic Life Guide   Human Synthesys Studio   9 figure Success   Crypto Kit   AdzHero   Stackable Picture   Forex Atlatian  Forex Scouts   Crypto Rocket   PigMoney Method   Crypto Underworld  XBrain Forex  Pixivid   Seniors Income    FaceSwap   AgencyScale   Ad Raven   Graphic Alta  Art Of Living  Credit Repair  DFY Content Club  3D Pal Toons  Movid Animation  Extreme Adz  Live Your Truth  Forex Blue Stark  Forex Mastery  Forex Mastery  Forex Hybrid Scalper  CourseAlly eLearning   EZ Local Appointment  Mat1 Simple Funnel  Photokit   HostLegends   AIWA22   ImageX     SocialAgency360


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: