Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Prapavessis, Harry

2nd Supervisor

Heath, Matthew


Sustained attention elicits mental fatigue and impairs inhibitory control, whereas a single bout of active or passive exercise (i.e., < 60-min) improves inhibitory control. It is, however, unclear whether a single bout of passive exercise mitigates the negative impact of mental fatigue on inhibitory control. Here, participants (N=27) completed separate 20-min sessions of the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) to induce mental fatigue while completing a passive-cycle ergometry exercise intervention (via mechanically driven flywheel) or a non-exercise control. Inhibitory control was assessed via pro- and antisaccade trials completed prior to, immediately after, and 30-min post-PVT, and subjective ratings of mental fatigue were examined throughout the protocol. Results showed that the PVT induced mental fatigue in both passive-exercise and control conditions; however, passive exercise negated a post-PVT inhibitory control deficit. Accordingly, these data suggests that an acute bout of passive cycling may mitigate the deleterious effects of mental fatigue on executive function.

Summary for Lay Audience

A growing body of literature has shown an overall positive effect of passive exercise (i.e., bodily movement that does not require the participant to voluntarily contract their muscles) on executive function. Executive function is comprised of three distinct components (of which we will focus on inhibitory control) which are essential to activities of daily living. Interestingly, mental fatigue (i.e., a state of tiredness after a long period of sustained attention) has been shown to negatively impact executive function (i.e., longer reaction times, more errors on executive function assessments). However, it is largely unclear whether passive exercise can help lessen the negative effects of mental fatigue on executive function, and specifically for this thesis, inhibitory control. To address this issue, I had participants perform oculomotor (i.e., eye-movement) tasks before and after performing a mentally fatiguing task (i.e., the psychomotor vigilance task) either with or without a concurrent bout of passive exercise. Accordingly, my results provide direct evidence that passive exercise can lessen the negative effects of mental fatigue on executive function.

Available for download on Friday, September 27, 2024

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Motor Control Commons