Physical or Mental Fatigue and Immunodepression

  • Linda M. Castell


Fatigue is an integral component of illness and sickness behavior. This chapter reviews possible links between fatigue, mood states, immunodepression, and the incidence of illness, particularly upper respiratory tract infections. In terms of fatigue, our work has focused mainly on the biochemical markers (tryptophan, branched chain amino acids) involved in central fatigue in endurance athletes (with/without unexplained underperformance syndrome) in chronic fatigue syndrome, and in postoperative fatigue. We have also looked at tryptophan from a different perspective by undertaking a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study on the brain in healthy humans, with/without tryptophan supplementation, undertaking a cognition function task. The availability of tryptophan has consequences for immune function. In prolonged exercise, mucosal protection may be impaired as a consequence of oronasal breathing. Individuals involved in our studies have often had a high incidence of minor illnesses, particularly upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), after prolonged, exhaustive exercise such as a marathon race, or intensive training. A concomitant decrease in plasma glutamine has been a frequent feature of these studies. Mood profiles and other parameters were assessed in military personnel undertaking intensive training in harsh environments: fatigue and other negative mood states were increased at the same time as the highest incidence of URTI. Sleep deprivation was a factor in this study, and a subsequent investigation of one night’s sleep loss demonstrated changes in some parameters involved in immune function concomitant with decreased cognitive ability. As well as a variety of metabolites, the cytokines, both pro- and antiinflammatory, clearly have an important role in all the circumstances mentioned above.


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Sleep Deprivation Endurance Athlete Mental Fatigue Exhaustive Exercise 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Castell
    • 1
  1. 1.Nuffield Department of AnaestheticsUniversity of Oxford, Radcliffe InfirmaryOxfordUK

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