Are you thinking too hard? Your brain might get poisoned

Are you thinking too hard?  Your brain might get poisoned

A long, grueling day sitting at a desk can be just as tiring as a brutal day of manual labor, and researchers have now found the reason why overthinking can be so exhausting.

A study has shown that overworking the brain can literally cause it to become poisoned, thanks to chemicals released in the prefrontal cortex, which forces the body to slow down to allow time for production to stop of these toxins and that they end. faded away

This process not only makes it very difficult to continue thinking, but also manifests itself as fatigue and tiredness, as the body and mind need a break to excrete toxins.

The researchers said it dispels a long-standing theory that feeling tired from thinking is a myth.

“Influential theories suggest that fatigue is a kind of illusion set up by the brain to make us stop what we’re doing and switch to a more rewarding activity,” said Mathias Pessiglione, study author of the Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris.

“But our results show that cognitive work produces a real functional alteration -accumulation of harmful substances-, so fatigue would be a signal that would make us stop working but with a different purpose: to preserve the integrity of the functioning of the brain” .

Tired work to see people get tired

The researchers monitored brain chemistry over the course of a workday in 40 people, 24 of whom needed to use their brains a lot while the others did not.

In the group doing hard mental work, they saw signs of fatigue, including reduced pupil dilation, as well as signs that they also made low-effort decisions, indicative of being tired.

Critically, the researchers said, they also had higher levels of a chemical called glutamate in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a chemical that builds up at the synapses between neurons, interfering with how they transmit messages throughout the brain.

This, the authors say, is evidence that glutamate makes additional activation of this part of the brain costly, so that cognitive control is more difficult after a day of mentally hard work.

Sleep is the only cure for fatigue

Dr Pessiglione warned, however, that there are no shortcuts to keeping your brain from getting tired, with a nap the only cure.

“I would use good old recipes: rest and sleep,” he said. “There is good evidence that glutamate is removed from synapses during sleep.”

Volunteers were given tasks interspersed with choice trials, where they were asked to choose between cash rewards: small values ​​given instantly or larger values ​​that they would have to wait for.

Difficult task subjects were more likely to choose low-effort rewards that required less waiting time to receive.

These decisions could be because the brain is trying to protect itself from toxins built up during intense cognitive effort, experts said.

Listen to your bodies

The volunteers were also asked to rate their fatigue levels.

Interestingly, the two groups rated themselves similarly, which the researchers believe could suggest that people are not good at listening to their bodies.

“This dissociation is common in everyday life; for example, when people continue to work or drive and start making mistakes because they failed to detect their true state of fatigue,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

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