Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 377–388 | Cite as

Cognitive resilience after prolonged task performance: an ERP investigation

  • Endre TakácsEmail author
  • Irén Barkaszi
  • Anna Altbäcker
  • István Czigler
  • László Balázs
Research Article


Deleterious consequences of cognitive fatigue might be avoided if people respond with increased effort to increased demands. In this study, we hypothesized that the effects of fatigue would be more pronounced in cognitive functions reflecting compensatory effort. Given that the P3a event-related potential is sensitive to the direction and amount of attention allocated to a stimulus array, we reasoned that compensatory effort would manifest in increased P3a amplitudes. Therefore, we compared P3a before (pre-test) and after (post-test) a 2 h long cognitively demanding (fatigue group, n = 18) or undemanding task (control group, n = 18). Two auditory tasks, a three-stimulus novelty oddball and a duration discrimination two-choice response task were presented to elicit P3a. In the fatigue group, we used the multi-attribute task battery as a fatigue-inducing task. This task draws on a broad array of attentional functions and imposed considerable workload. The control group watched mood-neutral documentary films. The fatigue manipulation was effective as subjective fatigue increased significantly in the fatigue group compared to controls. Contrary to expectations, however, fatigue failed to affect P3a in the post-test phase. Similar null effects were obtained for other neurobehavioral measures (P3b and behavioral performance). Results indicate that a moderate increase in subjective fatigue does not hinder cognitive functions profoundly. The lack of objective performance loss in the present study suggests that the cognitive system can be resilient against challenges instigated by demanding task performance.


Mental fatigue Event-related potentials Attention Oddball Distraction Effort 



We would like to thank Péter Nagy for valuable contribution to data analysis and Tamás Fodor for programming the VAS-F scale.


This study was funded by a Hungarian Ministry of National Development Grant URK10297.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

221_2018_5427_MOESM1_ESM.docx (561 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 560 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural SciencesHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Doctoral School of PsychologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary

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