Why does thinking cause a feeling of stress?

14 August, 2022
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Why does thinking cause a feeling of stress?

Hard physical labor is exhausting, but why does the same fatigue occur after intense mental work? To answer this question, researchers have proposed a theory that explains it based on new evidence of a buildup of toxic byproducts in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex after hours of thinking, which leads to what they call "cognitive fatigue."


According to the "Science Daily" website, the accumulation of these toxic products leads to a change in control of decisions, turning the brain into low-effort and unsustainable actions, which are to stop working and get rest.


The theory presented by two researchers from France's Petit-Salpetriere University suggested that fatigue is a kind of illusion that the brain creates to make us stop what we're doing, and that the goal of this shift is to maintain healthy brain function after the accumulation of these toxic byproducts. "Calculators can run continuously, the brain can't, and there is a need to recycle toxic substances that arise from neural activity," said Matthias Besiglione, co-author of the study.


To find out, Bisiglione and his colleague Antonius Wehler scanned the brains of two groups of people, monitoring their brain chemistry over the course of a work day. Signs of fatigue, including reduced pupil dilation, were observed only in the hard mental group.


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