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Facing successfully high mental workload and stressors: An fMRI study

Causse, Mickaël and Lepron, Evelyne and Mandrick, Kevin and Peysakhovich, Vsevolod and Berry, Isabelle and Callan, Daniel and Rémy, Florence Facing successfully high mental workload and stressors: An fMRI study. (2022) Human Brain Mapping, 43 (3). 1011-1031. ISSN 1065-9471

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.25703


The present fMRI study aimed at highlighting patterns of brain activations and autonomic activity when confronted with high mental workload and the threat of auditory stressors. Twenty participants performed a complex cognitive task in either safe or aversive conditions. Our results showed that increased mental workload induced recruitment of the lateral frontoparietal executive control network (ECN), along with disengagement of medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate regions of the default mode network (DMN). Mental workload also elicited an increase in heart rate and pupil diameter. Task performance did not decrease under the threat of stressors, most likely due to efficient inhibition of auditory regions, as reflected by a large decrement of activity in the superior temporal gyri. The threat of stressors was also accompanied with deactivations of limbic regions of the salience network (SN), possibly reflecting emotional regulation mechanisms through control from dorsal medial prefrontal and parietal regions, as indicated by functional connectivity analyses. Meanwhile, the threat of stressors induced enhanced ECN activity, likely for improved attentional and cognitive processes toward the task, as suggested by increased lateral prefrontal and parietal activations. These fMRI results suggest that measuring the balance between ECN, SN, and DMN recruitment could be used for objective mental state assessment. In this sense, an extra recruitment of task-related regions and a high ratio of lateral versus medial prefrontal activity may represent a relevant marker of increased but efficient mental effort, while the opposite may indicate a disengagement from the task due to mental overload and/or stressors.

Item Type:Article
HAL Id:hal-03534304
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Institution:French research institutions > Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS (FRANCE)
Université de Toulouse > Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace - ISAE-SUPAERO (FRANCE)
Université de Toulouse > Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier - UT3 (FRANCE)
Other partners > Kyoto University (JAPAN)
Laboratory name:
Deposited On:12 Jan 2022 09:06

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