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Kessler Foundation Neuroimaging Study Reveals Fatigue-Related Differences by Age and Gender

Eastern Hanover, NJ. August 5, 2022. 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 May 9, 2022 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in the open access article “Fatigue across the lifespan in men and women: State vs. feature” (doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.790006).

The authors are Glenn Wylie, DPhil, Amanda Pra Sisto, Helen M. Genova, PhD, and John DeLuca, PhD, 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 has felt 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. 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.

Funding: National MS Society (RG 4232A1), New Jersey Commission for Brain Injury Research (10.005.BIR1), Department of Veterans’ Affairs (5I01CX000893) and Kessler Foundation

Learn more about ongoing studies at the Kessler Foundation at Join Our Research Studies | Kesler Foundation

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