Effects of Mental Fatigue on Physical Endurance Performance and Muscle Activation Are Attenuated by Monetary Incentives

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Physical performance is impaired following cognitive control exertion. Incentives can ameliorate adverse carryover effects of cognitive control exertion but have not been investigated for physical endurance. This study examined the effect of monetary incentives on physical performance and muscle activation following exposure to a mentally fatiguing, cognitive control task. Participants (N = 82) performed two isometric endurance handgrip trials separated by a 12-min cognitive control manipulation using a 2 (high cognitive control [HCC]/low cognitive control [LCC]) × 2 (incentive/no incentive) design. Mental fatigue was significantly higher in the HCC conditions. Performance decreased in the HCC/no incentive condition but was unaffected in the HCC/incentive condition, which did not differ from the low cognitive control conditions. Electromyography data revealed increased muscle activation in the HCC/no incentive condition, which was also attenuated in the HCC/incentive condition. Findings show that incentives counteract the negative effects of HCC on physical endurance and alter central drive to motor units.

Denver M.Y. Brown and Steven R. Bray are with the Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Address author correspondence to Denver M.Y. Brown at brownd32@mcmaster.ca.
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