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Your Health & How Desk Jobs Alter Your Brain & Tire You Out

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

The fitness revolution began as the globe began to realize that sedentary office labor contributed to the epidemic of obesity that we are currently experiencing. Scientists have recently discovered that jobs that require sitting for long periods of time might not only damage your body, but also flood your brain with substances that could be harmful. While you are sleeping, your brain gets rid of waste compounds, which are called metabolites. The good news is that if you spend all day staring at a computer screen and the only time you get up is to sign for packages or refill your coffee mug, it's not in your head.

According to the findings of recent studies, an impaired capacity for rational decision making is associated with elevated levels of metabolites in the brain. When the part of your brain that is responsible for planning and decision-making is weary, it will be difficult for you to fight off the urge to go with the course of action that requires the least amount of work or the least amount of effort. Therefore, the next time a coworker approaches you as you are leaving the building, you should explain that you are unable to assist them because the glutamate content in your system is too high!

After a hard day at work, you may find that you have no energy left and an overwhelming desire to watch television and eat pizza. However, you have spent the entire day sitting. The question is, why do you feel as exhausted as your friends who have occupations that require physical labor?

As the clock ticks closer and closer to your departure time, it can feel like an uphill battle to get through the key chores on your to-do list. Even worse is running into a coworker on your way out of the building who “just wants a quick minute” to chat with you. People frequently continue on regardless of the fact that they are more prone to act rashly at the conclusion of a long day, despite the fact that this may appear to be an obvious fact.

A recent study that scanned people's brains at various points in their work day discovered that high-demand occupations that require strong and consistent concentration can lead to the accumulation of a neurotransmitter called glutamate, which has the potential to be deadly. Glutamate, which is normally utilized to transfer messages from nerve cells, changes the performance of the lateral prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain involved in planning and decision-making, when present in high enough levels (lPFC).

The effects of mental tiredness have been repeatedly demonstrated to exist by scientific research. There have been a lot of studies done that show how choices made by judges in court can be affected by how tired they are. For instance, after sitting in court for a long day, judges have a greater propensity to rule against parole (which is considered the safer option). According to several studies, at the end of a long clinical session, doctors are more inclined to write prescriptions for antibiotics that are not essential.

The new research, which was conducted at the Paris Brain Institute (ICM), looked into whether cognitive functions such as concentration, memory, problem-solving, and multitasking can cause fatigue in the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC), which in turn influences the decisions we make when we cross things off our lists.

A Cost Of Opportunity

The brain acts as the body's command center, controlling vital functions such as circulation, breathing, and motor function in addition to the nervous system. The brain expends a tremendous amount of energy in order to coordinate all of these tasks.

In order to generate energy, nerve cells must first break down nutrients (metabolism). However, throughout this process, chemicals that are known as metabolites are produced as a consequence. One category of metabolite is known as glutamate. During the time when you are asleep, the brain eliminates this harmful waste product.

The goal of the researchers that carried out the study in Paris was to determine whether sustained mental effort depletes the brain's supply of nutrients. They also investigated whether or not the lPFC builds up a bigger concentration of hazardous chemicals than other areas of the brain when subjected to this kind of high-focus demand. In this particular study, the authors evaluated lPFC in relation to the primary visual cortex, which is responsible for the reception and processing of visual information.

Are you familiar with this sensation? It's possible that you need to rethink the way you organize your workday.

The authors put their theory to the test by dividing their total sample size of 40 people into two groups. Each of the two groups spent the previous six and a half hours sitting in an office in front of a computer. One group was given challenging activities that required them to keep their attention and working memory on task at all times.

For instance, every 1.6 seconds, letters were shown to the participants on a computer screen, and they were tasked with classifying the presented letters as either vowels, consonants, or uppercase or lowercase based on the color of the letter. The second group completed exercises that were quite similar but significantly easier. Both groups were able to achieve an average of 80 percent correct responses.

The researchers scanned the individuals' brains with a technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which allowed them to determine the amounts of metabolites. Readings were taken at the start, middle, and finish of each working day by the authors.

These discovered indicators of weariness, such as an elevated glutamate level, but they were exclusively present in the high-demand group. Only in the lateral prefrontal cortex (also known as the lPFC) was an accumulation of harmful substances discovered; the primary visual cortex was not among them.

Following the cognitive tasks of high and low demand, the two groups then moved on to the choice tests. This included choices regarding their willingness to exert physical effort (whether to ride a bike at different intensities), cognitive effort (whether to perform harder or easier versions of the cognitive control tasks), and patience. This included choices regarding their willingness to ride a bike at different intensities (how long they were willing to wait to receive a larger reward). The prizes ranged from 0.10 euros to 50 euros (or 8 pence to £43). The timing of when the incentive would be delivered varied, ranging from instantaneous cash after the trial to a bank transfer after one year.

Reevaluating The Daily Schedule Of Work

The scientists discovered that the high-demand group, which had a higher amount of metabolites in the lPFC, favored options that required less mental effort from them. Because these participants' pupils were less dilated (because dilated pupils are a sign of arousal) and because it took them less time to make decisions, it is clear that they perceived this portion of the experiment to be less demanding than the rest of the trial.

As a result, the findings of the study in Paris call into question whether or not the current arrangement of the working day is the optimal one. The findings of the study suggest that we should break up high-demand cognitive control tasks that require working memory and constant attention and take into account the fact that performance suffers toward the end of the day. In addition, we should take into account the fact that high-demand cognitive control tasks require constant attention. Taking into consideration these results, it's possible that certain professions will require significantly different organizational structures.

Air traffic controllers are only required to guide airplanes for a maximum of two hours before taking a break of half an hour during their shift. However, bus drivers, physicians, and pilots would all benefit from mandatory rest breaks at regular intervals.

When we are engaged in a variety of activities, such as speaking, hearing, or planning, our brains are using a variety of distinct regions. Therefore, the findings of the Paris study are not sufficient to explain all of our choices.

According to the findings of a study that was conducted in the United States in 2006, it was found that when participants were hungry, their brains were better able to process new information. However, being hungry makes it more difficult to store freshly acquired information. When satiety is reached, the fuels necessary to create neuron circuits that retain long-term memory become available.

In a state of satiety, one may be better able to make decisions about a third party, such as a judge giving a verdict on a defendant; on the other hand, the ability to perform tasks that entail fine motor capabilities, such as surgery, may be hindered. This is due to the fact that when we have eaten, our urge to look for food decreases, which in turn lowers our self-interest in surviving.

Because of this, we are able to form more impartial judgments regarding our surroundings. However, satiety is a moment when the body needs to rest in order to assimilate the food that has been consumed, which is why complicated fine motor skills are not at their finest in this condition.

Be conscious of the fact that at the conclusion of a hard day, when you have to make a tough decision, you will have a tendency to pursue behaviors that require little work and offer immediate benefits. You really ought to try to get some rest and think about it.

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