Pessiglione and colleagues, including first author of the study Antonius Wiehler, wanted to understand what mental fatigue really is. While machines can compute continuously, the brain cannot. They wanted to discover why. They suspected the reason had to do with the need to recycle potentially toxic substances that originate from neural activity.
To look for evidence to support this theory, they used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to monitor brain chemistry over the course of a workday. They studied two groups of people: those who needed to think hard and those who had relatively simple cognitive tasks.
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