Cognitive fatigue is common after strenuous cognitive effort. A large body of literature has implicated a network of brain areas in fatigue, including the basal ganglia and cortical areas including ventro-medal prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Furthermore, the ACC has been shown to be involved in processes such as error and conflict monitoring, outcome prediction, and effort processing. Thus, the ACC appears to be one common denominator between clinical work on fatigue and research on outcome prediction and effort. In the present study, we examined whether the same region of the ACC is activated during the processing of errors and fatigue. Cognitive fatigue was induced by having subjects perform a difficult working memory task, during which they rated on-task fatigue. Activation associated with error processing was determined by using error trials on the working memory task. After localizing the region engaged in error processing, we evaluated whether there was a relationship between BOLD activation of that region and on-task fatigue scores. The results showed that as subjects became more fatigued, they responded with longer latencies and increased accuracy for the more difficult task. Moreover, the ACC areas that were activated by error processing were also associated with fatigue. These results suggest that cognitive fatigue may be related to changes in effort and reward. We speculate that as the brain detects these changes, cognitive fatigue is generated as a way for the brain to signal itself that the effort required for the task no longer merits the rewards received for performing it.
Cognitive, Affective, & Behaviorial Neuroscience – Springer Journals
Published: May 25, 2017
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