CTN NEWS – A buildup of substances in the prefrontal region of the brain increases the risk of cognitive problems after 4 hours of intense effort.
Sitting around thinking hard for hours makes you feel drained too. If you spend a lot of time “roasting your neurons” you’ve probably come to that conclusion. Now researchers have new evidence to explain why this happens.
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A study, recently published in the journal Current Biology, shows that prolonged intense cognitive work — around 4 to 5 hours — causes potentially toxic byproducts to accumulate in the part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex.
This alters your control over decisions, causing you to look—unintentionally—for paths that require less effort as cognitive fatigue sets in, the researchers explain.
The brain creates fatigue
The brain creates fatigue as a kind of illusion designed to make us stop what we are doing and turn to a more rewarding activity, suggests researcher Mathias Pessiglione.
“But our findings show that cognitive work results in a real functional change, with an accumulation of harmful substances.
So fatigue would indeed be a signal that would make us stop working, but with a different purpose: to preserve the integrity of brain functioning.
Scientists suspected the reason had to do with the need to recycle potentially toxic substances that arise from neural activity.
“There is good evidence that glutamate is cleared from synapses during sleep,” he said.