Hum Factors. 2024 May;66(5):1490-1503. doi: 10.1177/00187208231159526. Epub 2023 Mar 10.


BACKGROUND: Historical biases in ergonomics-related studies have been attributed to lack of participant diversity and sensitivity of measurements to capture variability between diverse groups. We posit that a neuroergonomics approach, that is, study of brain-behavior relationships during fatiguing work, allows for unique insights on sex differences in fatigue mechanisms that are not available via traditional “neck down” measurement approaches.

OBJECTIVE: This study examined the supraspinal mechanisms of exercise performance under fatigue and determined if there were any sex differences in these mechanisms.

METHODS: Fifty-nine older adults performed submaximal handgrip contractions until voluntary fatigue. Traditional ergonomics measures, namely, force variability, electromyography (EMG) of arm muscles, and strength and endurance times, and prefrontal and motor cortex hemodynamic responses were recorded.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences observed between older males and females in fatigability outcomes (i.e., endurance times, strength loss, and EMG activity) and brain activation. Effective connectivity from prefrontal to motor areas was significant for both sexes throughout the task, but during fatigue, males had higher interregional connectivity than females.

DISCUSSION: While traditional metrics of fatigue were comparable between the sexes, we observed distinct sex-specific neuromotor strategies (i.e., information flow between frontal-motor regions) that were adopted by older adults to maintain motor performance.

APPLICATION: The findings from this study offer insights into the capabilities and adaptation strategies of older men and women under fatiguing conditions. This knowledge can facilitate in the development of effective and targeted ergonomic strategies that accommodate for the varying physical capacities of diverse worker demographics.

PMID:36898850 | DOI:10.1177/00187208231159526