Central Fatigability

Research background

Aging brings about a marked increase in the likelihood of becoming tired, or tiring faster during activities that require mental effort. This phenomenon is called Central Fatigability (CF). CF can occur in almost any older adult, and is distinct from fatigue symptoms that often occur in individuals with certain neurologic or cardiac diseases, sleep disorders, or depression. CF has many adverse consequences, including cognitive decline, degraded performance in daily tasks (e.g., driving), reduced participation in intellectually beneficial activities (e.g., learning a new language or music instrument), poor quality of life, and mobility restriction.

In a recent study, we proposed novel laboratory tasks that could efficiently induce and capture CF (i.e. CF-manipulation tasks) in older adults, which we aim to use in later development and assessment of efficient strategies that mitigate CF.

Traditional CF-manipulation tasks

Dual 1-back task

Stroop Color-Word task

Most CF-manipulation tasks are computer based. In these tasks, participants are asked to respond as quickly and accurately as possible to stimuli that appear on the screen.

However, these tasks are usually time-consuming and tedious. In a recent study we developed shorter and more interactive tasks based on the hypothesized mechanism of CF. 

Brain regions associated with CF

We often see impairment in the fronto-basal ganglia circuit in older adults with CF. The figures below show the anatomical tracts of the fronto-basal ganglia circuit.

A. orbitofrontal cortex-caudate                                                    B. dorsolateral prefrontal cortex-caudate 

Green: seed in prefrontal cortex; pink: target in basal ganglia; blue: tracts between seed and target