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Mental Stress Can Lead to Physical Fatigue

Mental Stress Can Lead to Physical Fatigue

New research addresses a topic that may resonate with many as investigators study the ways in which stress and mental frustration can leave us physically tired and worn out.

In the study, Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, evaluated this interaction between physical and mental fatigue and brain behavior.

Typically, endurance and fatigue have been examined solely from a physical perspective, focused primarily on the body and muscles used to complete a specific task.

However, the brain is just like any other biological tissue; it can be overused and can suffer from fatigue.

“Existing examinations of physical and mental fatigue has been limited to evaluating cardiovascular, muscular and biomechanical changes,” said Mehta.

“The purpose of this study was to use simultaneous monitoring of brain and muscle function to examine the impact on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) while comparing the changes in brain behavior with traditional measures of fatigue.”

According to Mehta, study findings show that there were lower blood oxygen levels in the PFC following combined physical and mental fatigue compared to that of just physical fatigue conditions.

Therefore, significant brain use when participating in highly cognitive tasks, can cause brain resources to be divided which may accelerate the development of physical fatigue.

Experts believe it is critical that researchers consider the brain as well as the body when examining fatigue development and its impact on the body.

This is best accomplished by interdisciplinary work that combines neurocognitive principles with physiological and biomechanical outcomes can provide us with a comprehensive understanding of what is happening to the body when we perform our daily activities.

“Not a lot of people see the value in looking at both the brain and the body together,” said Mehta. “However, no one does purely physical or mental work; they always do both.”

This study appears online in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Source: Texas A&M

Mental Stress Can Lead to Physical Fatigue

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mental Stress Can Lead to Physical Fatigue. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 3 Aug 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.