European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 11, pp 2477–2487 | Cite as

Mental fatigue does not alter performance or neuromuscular fatigue development during self-paced exercise in recreationally trained cyclists

  • Marcos David Silva-CavalcanteEmail author
  • Patrícia Guimaraes Couto
  • Rafael de Almeida Azevedo
  • Renata Gonçalves Silva
  • Daniel Boari Coelho
  • Adriano Eduardo Lima-Silva
  • Romulo Bertuzzi
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of mental fatigue, characterized by a subjective feeling of tiredness, on the development of neuromuscular fatigue during a 4-km cycling time trial (4-km TT).


Eight recreationally trained male cyclists performed a 4-km TT after either performing a prolonged cognitive task (mental fatigue) or after viewing emotionally neutral documentaries (control). The neuromuscular function of the knee extensors was assessed using electrical nerve stimulation at baseline, before (pre-TT), and after (post-TT) the 4-km TT. Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and physiological variables were periodically measured during 4-km TT.


Subjective ratings of fatigue increased significantly only after a prolonged cognitive task (P = 0.022). Neuromuscular function at baseline was similar between conditions and remained unchanged at pre-TT. Time to complete the 4-km TT was similar between control (376 ± 27 s) and mental fatigue (376 ± 26 s). There was no significant difference between conditions for RPE, \(~\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_2}\), \(\dot {V}{\text{E}}\), and HR throughout the exercise. The 4-km TT-induced similar decrease (from baseline to post-TT) in maximal voluntary contraction (mental fatigue − 11 ± 10%, control − 16 ± 12%), twitch force (mental fatigue − 26 ± 16%, control − 24 ± 17%), and voluntary activation (mental fatigue − 5 ± 7%, control − 3 ± 2%) for both conditions.


Mental fatigue induced by prolonged cognitive task does not impair performance nor alter the degree of central and peripheral fatigue development during self-paced exercise in recreationally trained cyclists.


Endurance performance Central fatigue Peripheral fatigue Mental exertion 



Anterior cingulate cortex


Analysis of variance


Coefficient of variation


Surface electromyography


Heart rate


Intraclass correlation coefficient


Maximal voluntary contraction force


Peak power output


Root mean square


EMG amplitude during MVC


EMG amplitude during time trial


Rating of perceived exertion


Time trial


Maximal voluntary activation level


Visual analogue scale

\(~\dot {V}{\text{C}}{{\text{O}}_2}\)

Carbon dioxide production

\(\dot {V}{\text{E}}\)

Minute ventilation

\(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2max}}}}\)

Maximal oxygen uptake

\(\eta _{P}^{2}\)

Partial eta squared


TT 4-km cycling time trial



The authors thank the cyclists for their participation in this study. Marcos D. Silva-Cavalcante and Patrícia Guimaraes Couto are grateful to Coordination of Improvement of Personnel of Superior Level (CAPES) for Ph.D. scholarships. Marcos D. Silva-Cavalcante also is grateful to CAPES for current Post Doctoral Fellowship (PNPD/CAPES). The English text of this paper has been revised by Sidney Pratt, Canadian, MAT (The Johns Hopkins University), RSAdip—TESL (Cambridge University).

Author contributions

Formulation of the idea and designed research by MDSC, RB, and AELS; data collection by MDSC, PGC, and RAA; data analysis and interpretation by MDSC, RB, DBC, AELS, PGC, and RAA; preparation of the manuscript by MDSC, RB, RGS, AELS, PGC, and RAA; edition and revision by MDSC, RB, RGS, DBC, AELS, PGC, and RAA. All authors have read and give final approval of this version of the manuscript for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcos David Silva-Cavalcante
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Patrícia Guimaraes Couto
    • 1
  • Rafael de Almeida Azevedo
    • 1
  • Renata Gonçalves Silva
    • 1
  • Daniel Boari Coelho
    • 3
  • Adriano Eduardo Lima-Silva
    • 2
    • 4
  • Romulo Bertuzzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sport, Endurance Sports Research Group (GEDAE-USP), School of Physical Education and SportUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Sport Science Research Group, Post-graduation Program Nutrition, Physical Activity and Phenotypic Plasticity, Academic Center of VitoriaFederal University of PernambucoPernambucoBrazil
  3. 3.Center of Engineering, Modeling and Applied Social ScienceFederal University of ABCSao PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Human Performance Research Group, Academic Department of Physical EducationTechnological Federal University of ParanaCuritibaBrazil

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