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Biomedical Bases of Mental Fatigue and Military Fatigue Countermeasures

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Human Factors and Medicine

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bioelectronic devices, mental fatigue, performance, physical fatigue, sleep debt, wearable monitoring


Acute and chronic sleep debt are both responsible for cognitive decrements1,2; mental fatigue (including cognitive decrements) is also induced with a time on task effect in well rested individuals.3,4 Surprisingly, there is no clear consensus regarding a common view and a clear definition of mental fatigue5-7 or about the nature of the link between metnal and physical fatigue8-11 even though this is currently a pressing concern for the military with important human performance and safety implications.12-14 1Killgore, 2010; 2Lowe et al., 2017; 3Ishii et al., 2014; 4Inzlicht & Marcora, 2016; 5 fatigue (Boksem & Tops, 2008; 6Marcora et al., 2009; 7Enoka et Duchateau, 2017; 8Marcora et coll., 2009; 9Martin et coll., 2015; 10Van Cutsem et al., 2017; 11Vrijkotte et al., 2017; 12Yanovich et coll., 2015; 13Taylor et coll., 2016; 14Vrijkotte et al., 2016.


The two main objectives of this NATO ET are 1) to clarify and to come to a consensus agreement on a definition of mental fatigue with an attempt to identify common psychophysiological substrates (potential links with sleep debt and/or physical fatigue) and 2) to consider if and how it would be possible to assess and standardize (with age, sex, etc.) decrements of cognitive performance in order to quantify/characterize mental fatigue state(s) in laboratory and field environments.


Specific examples of potential priorities for the panel include: • Mutual agreement on an operational/scientific definition of mental fatigue. • Validation of a common way (e.g. guidelines) to assess mental fatigue in laboratory/military field environments. • Development and validation of commonly-used laboratory cognitive tests (such as PC-PVT) to assess mental fatigue in military field environments using wearable monitoring, touch-screen and other new devices (i.e. DREEM HeadBand). • Development and validation of cognitive performance metrics using actual performance requirements of warfighting communities that are based upon objective mental fatigue. In addition to specific applications, the panel will also: • Identify common psychophysiological substrates underlying a mental fatigue state using validated wearable systems, questionnaires, tests and eventually biological samples (i.e. saliva). • Develop and validate of a common way (guidelines) to list and to use effective countermeasures (old and new) in order to restrict (if possible to reverse) warfighter mental fatigue state. Neuroscience and psychology disciplines/areas of expertise include but are not limited to: neuropsychology of mental fatigue; neurophysiology of sleep/wake cycle; psychoneuroendocrinology; neurobiology of exercise

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