Aug 22, 2019

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When workplace stress becomes all encompassing, it’s easy to feel unmotivated to complete tasks (like writing articles about workplace stress), keep a professional demeanor with coworkers, or even show up for work in the first place. Burnout is real, and as scientists recently explained in the journal Cell, it may have its origins in a group of “giving up” cells in the brain.
Burnout is an insidious syndrome that becomes apparent after long periods of exposure to stress.”
In May, the World Health Organization recognized “burnout” as an “occupational phenomenon,” clarifying that it’s not a medical condition but specifically related to workplace stress. “Burnout is an insidious syndrome that becomes apparent after long periods of exposure to stress,” Michael Musker, Ph.D., a senior research fellow who studies wellbeing and resilience at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, tells Inverse. Burnout can manifest itself in feelings of exhaustion, negativity, cynicism, and low productivity.

Scientists like Musker have learned a lot about how burnout occurs but are only now discovering how and why it begins to manifest in the brain in the first place.

But in a study published in late July in Cell, scientists at University of Washington and Washington University, along with other collaborators, studied the brains of mice to identify what causes them to stop seeking a reward — in essence, what makes them burn out. They were able to trace burnout to a set of cells in the brain that seem to drive the urge to give up.


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