Thinking Hard and Long Can Cause Brain Drain

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According to a famous quote, "Thinking is the hardest and most exhausting of all labour." On the surface, that statement might sound controversial, but a recent study suggests that thinking too hard and for too long can actually exhaust your brain, similar to how exercise can do the same for your body. 

Hard physical work is undoubtedly exhausting, but a person's perspiration or trembling muscles reveal nothing about how hard they may be thinking.

We just have to take people at their word when they claim they're psychologically worn out. As a result, researchers are still puzzled as to why sustained contemplation leads to cognitive weariness.

It isn't really a feeling of being sleepy; rather, it is the impression that tasks are becoming more difficult to finish or to concentrate on. The brain's most prevalent excitatory neurotransmitter, according to some studies, may be to responsible for this lack of mental stamina. 

Despite being present in more than 90% of neuron-to-neuron connections in the human brain, glutamate, an excitatory amino acid, was only accurately defined in the 1950s.

This underappreciated molecule has kept scientists on their toes for decades. For instance, it has been shown that neurons regulate the quantity of glutamate they release to other neurons in order to modulate the intensity of their messages in the brain.

With as many as 8,000 glutamate molecules packed into a single pouch at the synapse, the point where two neurons converge, glutamate can even stimulate neurons to death.

Glutamate overproduction is unquestionably a concern, which is one of the reasons it has been connected to brain drain. Researchers detected an increase in glutamate in the lateral prefrontal cortex of 24 individuals after they underwent demanding computer-based sorting activities for more than six hours.

This region of the brain is connected to higher-order cognitive abilities, such as short-term memory and judgement.

Comparatively, 16 more people who were given simpler tasks to complete that day didn't exhibit any symptoms of glutamate buildup in this region of the brain. Therefore, the scientists believe that an increase in extracellular glutamate may be at least one of the causes limiting human mental endurance. 

Naturally, the brain consumes a lot of glucose when it is functioning. Other ideas speculate that this energy supply may also be a constraint, although it is yet unclear how a reduction in glucose affects the biochemistry of thinking.

According to some experts, a drop in glucose causes the brain to lose dopamine, which makes people lose interest in some cognitive activities more quickly.

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