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Sustained cognitive effort associated with the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) increases objective and subjective measures of mental fatigue and elicits a post-PVT inhibitory control deficit. In contrast, passive exercise wherein an individual's limbs are moved via an external force (i.e., mechanically driven cycle ergometer flywheel) provides a postexercise inhibitory control benefit linked to an exercise-based increase in cerebral blood flow. Here, we examined whether passive exercise performed concurrently with the PVT 'blunts' an inhibitory control deficit. On separate days, participants (N = 27) completed a 20 min PVT protocol (control condition) and same duration PVT protocol paired with passive cycle ergometry (passive exercise condition). Prior to (i.e., baseline), immediately after and 30 min after each condition inhibitory control was assessed via the antisaccade task. Antisaccades require a goal-directed eye movement (i.e., saccade) mirror-symmetrical to a target and provide an ideal tool for evaluating task-based changes in inhibitory control. PVT results showed that vigilance (as assessed via reaction time: RT) during control and passive exercise conditions decreased from the first to last 5 min of the protocol and increased subjective ratings of mental fatigue. As well, in the control condition, immediate (but not 30-min) post-intervention antisaccade RTs were longer than their baseline counterparts-a result evincing a transient mental fatigue-based inhibitory control deficit. For the passive exercise condition, immediate and 30-min post-intervention antisaccade RTs were shorter than their baseline counterparts and this result was linked to decreased subjective ratings of mental fatigue. Thus, passive exercise ameliorated the selective inhibitory control deficit associated with PVT-induced mental fatigue and thus provides a potential framework to reduce executive dysfunction in vigilance-demanding occupations.

Original publication




Journal article


Exp Brain Res

Publication Date





1835 - 1845


Executive function, Exercise, Oculomotor, Sustained attention, Vigilance, Humans, Muscle Fatigue, Reaction Time, Eye Movements, Saccades, Mental Fatigue, Psychomotor Performance