Background Athletes indicate that mental fatigue (MF) interferes with maximal performance. MF has also been hypothesized to play an important role in injury occurrence. Clinically applied studies show that MF affects brain activity and decreases endurance, skill and decision-making performance. Nevertheless, no clear insights exist on how MF might affect brain activity during predefined and reactive balance test performance. Gaining insights into this topic could further strengthen or challenge the MF-injury hypothesis.
Objective To study whether (1) MF alters the electrophysiological functioning of the brain during one predefined and one reactive balance task, and (2) performance on these balance tasks.
Design Cross-over design.
Setting Primary clinical setting.
Participants Twelve healthy participants (age = 22 ± 1 years; height = 176.9 ± 8.4 cm; weight = 69.7 ± 10.4 kg).
Interventions MF was induced by a 90-minute Stroop task, while the control task included watching a 90-minute documentary.
Main Outcome Measurements Brain activity was measured through electroencephalography during both balance tests and computed by means of spectral power analysis. The predefined balance task was the Y-balance test (YBT), while the reactive balance test (RBT) was selected as the neurocognitive balance test.
Results For the YBT, θ-power of the prefrontal cortex significantly increased due to MF. For the RBT, brain activity remained unchanged. RBT accuracy worsened (p < 0.05) following MF, while YBT performance did not significantly change.
Conclusions The MF intervention induced unfavourable brain activity changes during the YBT, but did not affect YBT performance. However, no changes in brain electrophysiological functioning were observed during RBT execution while a decrease in RBT accuracy occurred. These results suggest that sustained attention tasks might affect different central mechanisms depending on the type of balance task. Further research is needed in order to elucidate the role of the brain and MF in balance performance and injury occurrence.
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