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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 13, 2014

Neural mechanisms of mental fatigue

Akira Ishii, Masaaki Tanaka and Yasuyoshi Watanabe


Fatigue is defined as a decline in the ability and efficiency of mental and/or physical activities that is caused by excessive mental and/or physical activities. Fatigue can be classified as physical or mental. Mental fatigue manifests as potentially impaired cognitive function and is one of the most significant causes of accidents in modern society. Recently, it has been shown that the neural mechanisms of mental fatigue related to cognitive task performance are more complex than previously thought and that mental fatigue is not caused only by impaired activity in task-related brain regions. There is accumulating evidence supporting the existence of mental facilitation and inhibition systems. These systems are involved in the neural mechanisms of mental fatigue, modulating the activity of task-related brain regions to regulate cognitive task performance. In this review, we propose a new conceptual model: the dual regulation system of mental fatigue. This model contributes to our understanding of the neural mechanisms of mental fatigue and the regulatory mechanisms of cognitive task performance in the presence of mental fatigue.

Corresponding author: Akira Ishii, Department of Physiology, Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-4-3 Asahimachi, Abeno-ku, Osaka 545-8585, Japan, e-mail:


This work was supported, in part, by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research B (KAKENHI: 23300241) and a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (KAKENHI: 23700804, 25750351) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) of Japan and by grants from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. We thank Forte Science Communication for editorial help with the manuscript.


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Received: 2014-4-14
Accepted: 2014-5-19
Published Online: 2014-6-13
Published in Print: 2014-8-1

© 2014 by De Gruyter