Cognitive Fatigue defined in the context of attention networks

Roee Holtzer, Melissa Shuman, Jeannette R. Mahoney, Richard Lipton, Joe Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We examined the effect of cognitive fatigue on the Attention Networks Test (ANT). Participants were 228 non-demented older adults. Cognitive fatigue was operationally defined as decline in alerting, orienting, and executive attention performance over the course of the ANT. Anchored in a theoretical model implicating the frontal basal ganglia circuitry as the core substrate of fatigue, we hypothesized that cognitive fatigue would be observed only in executive attention. Consistent with our prediction, significant cognitive fatigue effect was observed in executive attention but not in alerting or orienting. In contrast, orienting improved over the course of the ANT and alerting showed a trend, though insignificant, that was consistent with learning. Cognitive fatigue is conceptualized as an executive failure to maintain and optimize performance over acute but sustained cognitive effort resulting in performance that is lower and more variable than the individual's optimal ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-128
Number of pages21
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Aging
  • Attention networks
  • Cognitive fatigue
  • Executive control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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