Can We Potentially Control That Mental Fatigue Feeling and Keep Ourselves Alert and Focused?

Do you ever feel out of it, foggy, drained or distracted and unable to concentrate or stick to a task? It happens all the time for a variety of different reasons that cover the whole spectrum of potential causes. There is an underlying common denominator and a new study out of Europe may have identified that common denominator that creates the mental fog that dulls the senses and alertness through inflammation. 

The study is called “Cutting through the fog: understanding the causes of mental fatigue” and was published late last month. The new study provides an explanation for the brain fog often experienced by those with chronic medical conditions. 

Individuals with chronic medical conditions often experience severe mental fatigue or ‘brain fog’. This fatigue can affect mental processes such as memory, the ability to process information and problem-solving skills. Increased mental strain can be frustrating and exacerbate existing symptoms of chronic illness.

The collaborative study between scientists at the University of Birmingham (UK) and the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands) has provided a possible explanation for this symptom.

Inflammation is the body’s response to infection; it is also found in autoimmune diseases. The team demonstrated a link between inflammation and a decline in the brain’s cognitive responses.

It is easy to extend this study to include those with chronic inflammation as well. The cause of the inflammation may or may not be considered a chronic illness, but there is inflammation none the less and that results in the mental fatigue and mental fog.

The study enrolled 20 healthy male volunteers. Each participant received a salmonella typhoid vaccine – selected to induce temporary inflammation with minimal side effects – on one day, and a saline injection which served as a placebo-control on another.

A few hours after receiving each injection, the volunteer’s cognitive responses were tested. Electroencephalography was utilized to image brain activity in response to different stimuli. Three separate attention processes were examined in order to understand the processes happening in distinct regions of the brain.

The processes examined were: “alerting” to assess vigilance in preparation for potential stimuli, “orienting” which is the ability to identify and prioritize sensory information and “executive control” which identifies the ability to process conflicting information.

The volunteers’ inflammatory levels were assessed by testing levels of interleukin-6 in the blood on each day of the study. It was demonstrated that inflammation impeded alertness, while the performance of the other attention processes was unaffected.

“Getting a better understanding of the relationships between inflammation and brain function will help us investigate other ways to treat some of these conditions. For example, further research might show that patients with conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as obesity, kidney disease or Alzheimer’s, could benefit from taking anti-inflammatory drugs to help preserve or improve cognitive function,” commented Leonie Balter (University of Amsterdam), first author of the paper.

These findings demonstrate that inflammation results in individuals exerting a greater cognitive effort when carrying out day to day tasks. The team now aims to assess the effects of inflammation on memory and other areas of brain function.

If there is a chronic inflammatory condition plaguing one’s body and stress is piled on top of the inflammation, it is a self-feeding endless loop that can set the victim up for further misery. If untreated, both the inflammation and the stress, real medical problems have the potential to develop with long term consequences for physical and mental health of the individual. 

The importance of overall health, exercise, diet, life choices and mechanisms for stress relief cannot be underestimated in this case. This study has linked the presence of an inflammatory state to mental fatigue, fogginess and lack of ability to focus and concentrate. One symptom leads to others with no end to the cascade until changes are made in coping methods or pharmaceutical solutions to battle the inflammation. Drugs are a temporary solution and the issues have to be solved for long term health and wellness of the victim. 

The whole study can be found at this link:

As always, drop us a line through the contact form with any questions or comments. 

Thank you!


Dr. Joe Nieusma and the Superior Toxicology & Wellness Team

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