A. Galloway, V. Harness, E. Gahn, M. Laye

The College of Idaho, Caldwell, ID

PURPOSE: Inhibitory control is thought to be important for physical performance. We sought to determine if a 30-min Stroop test is mentally fatiguing and would cause decreased performance on non-Stroop tests. Further, we added a 3 week training period to see if a brain training app would then prevent any decrease in non-Stroop performance. METHODS: Twenty-eight college aged subjects participated were randomly placed in either the brain training group (BT) or the reaction time training group (RT). Testing consisted of a reaction time, go-no-go, and Eriksen Flanker Test to assess reaction time and response inhibition both prior to and following a 30-min Stroop Test. The training consisted of a 3-week period where participants used brain-training cellphone apps, Brain Trainer and Color, for the BT group and Reaction Time for the RT group for a minimum of 20 min/day during the weekdays. Changes in pre-Stroop performance was compared to post-Stroop performance in the BT and RT groups prior to and following the 3 weeks of training with significance of p <0.05. RESULTS: Contrary to our hypothesis that 30 min of Stroop test would be mentally fatiguing we found that participants improved their Flanker test after completing the 30-min Stroop test in the incongruent (542 ± 100msec to 491 ± 88msec; p< 0.05) and congruent (639 ± 159msec to 531 ± 67msec; p<0.05). Following the 3-week intervention, both the BT and RT groups improved in incongruent Flanker Test (10.2% and 24.2% respectively; p < 0.05), but did not significantly differ from each other. However, only the BT group significantly improved post 30-minutes Stroop test after the intervention (493 ± 100msec to 446 ± 45msec, p<0.05). No statistically significant change between pre and post intervention and pre and post 30-min Stroop test occurred in the reaction time and go-no-go. CONCLUSION: Results from our study suggest that the 30-min Stroop test is insufficient to induce mental fatigue in other cognitive tests. Furthermore, a brain training specific app had no advantage over a simple reaction time app in improving performance over a three-week intervention. Whether non-measurable cognitive fatigue would translate to physical fatigue remains unknown. Future studies should identify better mentally fatiguing protocols and/or alternative tests to measure mental fatigue objectively.

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