How to Tackle Mental Fatigue: A Systematic Review of Potential Countermeasures and Their Underlying Mechanisms


Matthias Proost, Jelle Habay, Jonas De Wachter, Kevin De Pauw, Ben Rattray, Romain Meeusen, Bart Roelands, Jeroen Van Cutsem

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Mental fatigue (MF) is a psychobiological state that impairs cognitive as well as physical performance in different settings. Recently, numerous studies have sought ways to counteract these negative effects of MF. An overview of the explored countermeasures for MF is, however, lacking.


The objective of this review is to provide an overview of the different MF countermeasures currently explored in literature. Countermeasures were classified by the timing of application (before, during or after the moment of MF) and type of intervention (behavioural, physiological and psychological).


The databases of PubMed (MEDLINE), Web of Science and PsycINFO were searched until March 7, 2022. Studies were eligible when MF was induced using a task with a duration of at least 30 min, when they assessed MF markers in at least two out of the three areas wherein MF markers have been defined (i.e., behavioural, subjective and/or [neuro]physiological) and used a placebo or control group for the countermeasure.


A total of 33 studies investigated one or more countermeasures against MF. Of these, eight studies assessed a behavioural countermeasure, 22 a physiological one, one a psychological countermeasure and two a combination of a behavioural and psychological countermeasure. The general finding was that a vast majority of the countermeasures induced a positive effect on behavioural (e.g., task or sport performance) and/or subjective MF markers (e.g., visual analogue scale for MF or alertness). No definitive conclusion could be drawn regarding the effect of the employed countermeasures on (neuro)physiological markers of MF as only 19 of the included studies investigated these measures, and within these a large heterogeneity in the evaluated (neuro)physiological markers was present.