Mental fatigue is a psychobiological state caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity, which results in a slower reaction time, attention deficits, and overall temporary cognitive decline. It is widespread amongst the population as it is usually accompanied by being overworked and overstressed. If not addressed, mental fatigue will continue to have negative effects on cognitive processing.
Some interventions have been theorized to aid in alleviating negative symptoms of mental fatigue. A recent study from the
University of Southern Denmark’s Department of Psychology aimed to test if these interventions do aid in reducing the effects of mental fatigue.
This study recruited four groups, a novice mindfulness group, an experienced mindfulness group, a music group, and a control group, with a total of 90 people participating in the study. All the participants were randomly selected, except for the experienced mindfulness group, who had previously completed a four-week online-based mindfulness program, Headspace. The study consisted of five phases, all completed in one day.
Phase one consisted of the participants taking a mood test to assess how they feel before the intervention about their mental fatigue. They also took a sustained attention test.
For phase two, they induced mental fatigue in the participants by having them do a test that required 90 minutes of continuous focus.
In phase three, they were asked to take the mood test again to see if their subjective view of their mental fatigue has changed, and if the mental fatigue induction worked.
In phase four, each group was instructed to complete an intervention, except for the control group, who were just told to sit and relax for 12 minutes. The music group was instructed to listen to music for 12 minutes continuously. The experienced and novice mindfulness groups both were told to do the same 12-minute guided audio exercise from Headspace. Both groups were not given an introductory session on how to go about the exercise. In the final phase, all groups completed the sustained attention test again.
The researchers found that listening to music reduced the effect of mental fatigue, however the experienced mindfulness group had the most significant decrease in mental fatigue out of all four groups. The novice mindfulness group had a more significant decrease than the music group as well.
These findings indicate that while music can somewhat help with mental fatigue, continued mindfulness exercises are the most effective at combating the effects of mental fatigue.