From “I think, therefore I am” to “I think, therefore I am tired.” It’s not a new philosophical quote but the result of a study that confirms what you, a thoughtful reader of Esquire, already had intuitively because you felt it in your body (and neurons): hitting the brain hard causes fatigue. But physical fatigue, like going to the gym.
Does this mean that you no longer need to wait for the marketing of the pill that will replace exercise, and that you can lie on the couch and think until your abdominal muscles sprout once and for all? Yes, would you imagine that was the answer? Well, no, things don’t work that way.
by account CountryAnd the A group of French universities has conducted a study that could explain why thinking generates fatigue. The experiment involved studying the physical and brain reactions of a group of 50 people for six and a half hours: some had to perform during that time a series of activities requiring brains, such as remembering a series of letters and colors without stopping, and others faced a very simple task.
Scientists measured reflexes by eye-tracking – presumably when you think hard, the pupil remains stationary and dilated, as when you take a triple…, nothing, it doesn’t matter – magnetic resonance spectroscopy and tests to measure your level of fatigue. As expected, they found that the group that faced the most complex tasks became more fatigued.
What’s new is that they found in their brains higher levels of glutamate, an essential molecule that promotes healthy brain function, but becomes neurotoxic when it appears in excess. The hypothesis of these scientists is that when too much glutamate is generated through excessive thinking, the prefrontal cortex becomes saturated, a state in which the brain activates a fatigue alarm until we stop. Ah, kitchen reader, don’t confuse this glutamate with monosodium glutamate, that delicious poison used as a flavor enhancer in nearly all fast foods.
For now, it is only a hypothesis awaiting confirmation from other neuroscientists in larger, future studies. But if he concludes that glutamate is the main molecule in mental fatigue, that would be a real novelty, because until now there was a vague consensus that this mental fatigue resulted from energy expenditure, as in physical fatigue, but there was no clarity. About what was “burned” to get that energy. Glucose has been targeted (hence sugar companies almost always sell their products as ‘brain fuel’), but that theory falters because it doesn’t differentiate between light brain work and demanding brain work, with this new study suggesting glutamate is the active ingredient. The real “culprit” of this feeling is that the brain is fried by thinking too much.
*If reading this doesn’t stimulate your glutamate, face 110 general knowledge questions
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