Zoom fatigue may take toll on the brain and the heart, researchers say

zoom fatigue and its physiological effects
A new study looked for physiological signs of fatigue in 35 students attending lectures on engineering at an Austrian university. (iStock)

Zoom fatigue: Do you feel exhausted after using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or FaceTime?

You’re not alone: Since the early days of the epidemic, videoconferencing has become increasingly popular, and its use has increased. Anecdotal reports of a phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue” have also surfaced; this particular state of exhaustion is experienced by people who feel drained after making video chats.

The phenomena are corroborated by a recent brain-monitoring study that found a correlation between physical symptoms associated with weariness and videoconferencing in educational settings.

The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined 35 engineering students who were attending lectures at an Austrian university for physiological indicators of fatigue. A 50-minute videoconference in a neighboring lab and an in-person lecture the next week were attended by half of the class; the other half attended both in person and online initially.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) devices were used to monitor the subjects, recording their heart rhythms and electrical activity in the brain. They also took part in questionnaires regarding their level of weariness and mood.

During the lecture, the researchers looked for physical signs of mental strain, such as altered brain waves, a lowered heart rate, and indications that the nervous system might be attempting to compensate for mounting weariness.

The researchers report that there were “notable” variations between the online and in-person groups. Over the duration of the session, the video participants’ weariness increased, and their brain states revealed that they were having trouble focusing. The moods of the groups also differed; participants who were present in person reported feeling livelier, happier, and more energetic, whereas those who participated virtually reported feeling sleepy, exhausted, and “fed up.”

In summary, the study provides proof of the physical cost of videoconferencing and recommends that technology “should be considered as a complement to face-to-face interaction, but not as a substitute,” according to the researchers.

In order to have a more precise understanding of the effects of these sessions on participants, they recommend that the research be repeated in homes and workplaces. They also advocate for larger participant groups and other brain regions to be examined in future studies.

The study was carried out as part of the Austrian-funded “Technostress in Organizations” initiative, which aims to gather verifiable data regarding the physiological and psychological effects of technology on people. Throughout the experiment, more research on “digital detoxes,” interruptions at work, and social media use was published.

Credits: Washington Post

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