Although the prevalence of chronic fatigue is approximately 20% in healthy individuals, there are no studies of brain structure that elucidate the neural correlates of fatigue outside of clinical subjects. We hypothesized that fatigue without evidence of disease might be related to changes in the basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex and be implicated in fatigue with disease. We aimed to identify the white matter structures of fatigue in young subjects without disease using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Healthy young adults (n = 883; 489 males and 394 females) were recruited. As expected, the degrees of fatigue and motivation were associated with larger mean diffusivity (MD) in the right putamen, pallidus and caudate. Furthermore, the degree of physical activity was associated with a larger MD only in the right putamen. Accordingly, motivation was the best candidate for widespread basal ganglia, whereas physical activity might be the best candidate for the putamen. A plausible mechanism of fatigue may involve abnormal function of the motor system, as well as areas of the dopaminergic system in the basal ganglia that are associated with motivation and reward.
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