Neuroimaging Study Reveals Fatigue-Related Differences by Age and Gender

Summary: Both age and gender appear to affect the relationship between state fatigue and brain activation.

Source: Kesler Foundation

To investigate the relationship between age and fatigue, Kessler Foundation researchers conducted a new study using neuroimaging and self-report data.

Their findings were published online on May 9, 2022, in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

The authors are Glenn Wylie, DPhil, Amanda Pra Sisto, Helen M. Genova, Ph.D., and John DeLuca, Ph.D., of the Kessler Foundation. All have faculty appointments at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Wylie is also a research scientist at the Center for the Study of War-Related Injuries and Illnesses, Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Healthcare System.

Their study is the first to report the effects of gender and age on “state” and “trait” fatigue, and the first to report fatigue-related differences in brain activation across the lifespan. life and by gender during a cognitively strenuous task.

The fatigue “state” measure assesses a subject’s instantaneous experience of fatigue at the time of the test; The “trait” measure of fatigue assesses the amount of fatigue a subject feels over a longer period of time, such as the previous four weeks.

The researchers collected data on trait fatigue and state fatigue from 43 healthy men and women between the ages of 20 and 63. State fatigue was measured during fMRI scans while participants performed a cognitively challenging task.

Their study is the first to report the effects of gender and age on “state” and “trait” fatigue, and the first to report fatigue-related differences in brain activation across the lifespan. life and by gender during a cognitively strenuous task. Image is in public domain

The study was conducted at the Kessler Foundation’s Rocco Ortenzio Center for Neuroimaging, a specialized facility dedicated solely to rehabilitation research. They found that older people reported less state fatigue.

Dr. Wylie, Director of the Ortenzio Center, commented: “Our neuroimaging data show that the role of the mid-frontal areas of the brain changes with age. Younger people can use these areas to fight fatigue, but older people cannot. Moreover, these results suggest that women show greater resilience in the face of a tiring task.

“This study is an important first step in explaining some of the differences reported in the fatigue literature, by showing that measures of fatigue state and traits measure different aspects of fatigue, and that age and gender both appear to affect the relationship between fatigue status and brain activation,” Dr. Wyle concluded.

About this fatigue research news item

Author: Press office
Source: Kesler Foundation
Contact: Press Office – Kessler Foundation
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Lifetime fatigue in men and women: state versus trait” by Glenn R. Wylie et al. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience

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Summary

Fatigue across the lifespan in men and women: condition vs trait

Objective: It is generally believed that fatigue worsens with age, but the literature is mixed: some studies show that older people experience more fatigue, others report the opposite. Some inconsistencies in the literature may be related to gender differences in fatigue, while others may be due to differences in the instruments used to study fatigue, since the correlation between state measures (on time) and traits (over a long period of time) of fatigue was found to be low. The aim of the current study was to examine both trait condition and fatigue by age and gender using neuroimaging and self-report data.

Methods : We investigated the effects of age and gender in 43 healthy people on self-reported fatigue using the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS), a characteristic fatigue measure. We also performed fMRIs on these individuals and collected self-reported measures of state fatigue using the Visual Analog Scale of Fatigue (VAS-F) during a strenuous task.

Results: There was no correlation between age and total MFIS score (feature fatigue) (r = –0.029, p = 0.873), and there was also no effect of gender [F(1,31) < 1]. However, for state fatigue, increasing age was associated with less fatigue [F(1,35) = 9.19, p < 0.01, coefficient = –0.4]. In neuroimaging data, age interacted with VAS-F in the middle frontal gyrus. In younger people (20-32 years), greater activation was associated with less fatigue, for people aged 33-48 there was no relationship, and for older people (55 years and older), greater activation was associated with more fatigue. Sex also interacted with VAS-F in several domains, including the orbital, middle, and inferior frontal gyri. For women, more activation was associated with less fatigue while for men, more activation was associated with more fatigue.

Conclusion: Older people reported less fatigue while performing tasks (state measures). Neuroimaging data indicate that the role of the mid-frontal areas changes with age: younger people may use these areas to combat fatigue, but older people do not. Moreover, these results may suggest greater resilience in women than in men when faced with a strenuous task.

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