Thinking too much damages your brain, reveals new study. The results of the study may lead to the development of a new technique for identifying extreme mental exhaustion and may influence work schedules to prevent burnout.
Have you ever felt physically exhausted after a long day at work, even if you have only spent time sitting at a computer?
There is a cause for this, according to scientists, since a toxic substance starts to accumulate in the brain after it has been active for prolonged periods of time, reports the Daily Mail.
So as not to continue circulating this chemical, glutamate, the brain switches to activities that do not demand as much effort.
According to neuroscientists from Pitié-Salpêtrière University in Paris, France, this emerges as a lack of motivation to complete tasks or cognitive exhaustion.
The study’s leader, Dr. Mathias Pessiglione, stated: “Influential theories suggested that fatigue is a sort of illusion cooked up by the brain to make us stop whatever we are doing and turn to a more gratifying activity,
“But our findings show that cognitive work results in a true functional alteration—accumulation of noxious substances—so fatigue would indeed be a signal that makes us stop working but for a different purpose: to preserve the integrity of brain functioning.”
Physical weariness is a direct outcome of intense manual labor, whereas mental exhaustion, which results in symptoms like lack of drive and concentration, is a result of thinking hard for a prolonged period of time.
In the study, which was just published in Current Biology (read below), the researchers aimed to comprehend what mental weariness actually was and why it manifested.
For this, they monitored the chemistry of the brains of two groups of research participants during a workday using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).
They divided the participants into simple and difficult computer-based memory tasks that required recalling and matching a succession of differently colored letters for close to six and a half hours.
According to the findings, individuals who had to complete more difficult tasks preferred to select alternatives that came faster or gave smaller rewards in exchange for less work.
The researchers next looked at the glutamate levels in the brain’s prefrontal cortex synapses and discovered that they were higher for the group that had the more mentally demanding task.
The authors claim that this corroborates their claim that the brain switches to lower-effort behaviors as a result of glutamate buildup.
It does this to prevent the accumulation or cycling of this potentially hazardous substance, which could harm brain function.
The findings, according to the researchers, may lead to the development of a new technique for identifying extreme mental exhaustion and may influence work schedules to prevent burnout.
Future research will hopefully shed more light on why the prefrontal cortex is especially prone to glutamate buildup and exhaustion following neuronal activity.
They are also interested in finding out whether the same brain indicators of weariness might forecast the recovery from conditions like depression or cancer.
Dr. Pessiglione advises avoiding making critical judgments when weary and obtaining lots of rest when exhaustion sets in, even if there is no way to circumvent this limit to our cognition.
Read the study below: