Science 2 min read

Excessive Athletic Training can Cause Brain Fatigue

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

It’s common knowledge that extreme athletic training can make your body tired. But according to a recent paper in the journal Current Biology, it can also cause brain fatigue.

Overtraining syndrome (OTS), also known as burnout, is not uncommon among individuals training for sports events such as the Olympics. It’s a condition in which the athlete experiences fatigue and declining performance in sport despite increased training.

Researchers have always wondered what was responsible for OTS. More importantly, they wanted to know whether overtraining syndrome arose in part from the neural fatigue in the brain – the same kind of fatigue that can be caused by excessive intellectual work?

To answer these questions, researchers Mathias Pessiglione of Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris and first author Bastien Blain conducted a study.

How Excessive Athletic Training Causes Brain Fatigue

For the study, the researchers recruited 37 competitive male endurance athletes within an average age of 35. Then, they asked the participants to either continue their regular training or increase it by 40 percent per session over three weeks.

The research team then collected several data during this study period.

They monitored the participants’ physical performance during cycling exercises and assessed how each athlete experienced fatigue using questionnaires. The researchers also conducted behavioral testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning experiments.

Findings from the study suggest that excessive athletic training made the participants feel more fatigued. As a result, they acted impulsively in standard test to evaluate how they would make economic choices, favoring immediate over delayed rewards.

Also, the researchers noted a diminished activation of the lateral prefrontal cortex – a vital region of the executive control system – in the brain of athletes making these economic choices.

Endurance sport is right for your health. However, the researchers suggest that overdoing an endurance sport can harm the brain.

In a statement, Pessiglione said:

“Our findings draw attention to the fact that neural states matter: you don’t make the same decisions when your brain is fatigued.”

Aside from helping athletes maximize their training, findings from this study are essential for understanding decision making. It emphasizes the importance of monitoring our fatigue levels to avoid making bad judicial, political, or economic decisions.

Read More: Researchers Introduce a New Way to Monitor Gym Exercises

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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