Investigation of Prefrontal Cortex Activity in University Students with Presenteeism: A Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) Study


Presenteeism refers to impaired performance attributed to attending work with health problems. There has been no study examining the state of presenteeism with objective measures. We compared cerebral hemodynamic changes, measured by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), during neuropsychological tests conducted by university students with presenteeism and healthy controls. Twenty-two university students participated in the study; 11 of them with impaired performance caused by mental health problem were allocated to the presenteeism group and 11 without health problems to the control group. Presenteeism was assessed by the Presenteeism Scale for Students. To evoke hemodynamics changes, the participants completed a Word Fluency Test (WFT) and a Trail Making Test (TMT). The NIRS probes were located over the bilateral prefrontal area. Students with presenteeism had significantly higher incidences of depression than controls. However, there was no significant difference in behavioral performance examinations between the two groups. With regard to hemodynamics changes, the repeated measures analysis of covariance of the NIRS signals revealed significant interactions between group and task activation. Although we observed a significant increase in oxygenated hemoglobin concentration during the WFT among controls (simple main effect; left channel, F(1, 19) = 27.34, P < 0.001; right channel, F(1, 19) = 22.05, P < 0.001), no changes were found in students with presenteeism during either the WFT (simple main effect; left channel, F(1, 19) = 0.12, P < 0.732; right channel, F(1, 19) = 0.08, P < 0.778) or TMT tasks (left channel, t = ﹣0.94, P with Bonferroni correction = 0.745; right channel, t = ﹣2.19, P with Bonferroni correction < 0.113). This is the first study to reveal differences in activity in the cerebral cortex associated with presenteeism. The fact that students with presenteeism have prefrontal dysfunction might reinforce the concept of presenteeism.

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Matsushita, M., Yamamura, S. and Ikeda, M. (2015) Investigation of Prefrontal Cortex Activity in University Students with Presenteeism: A Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) Study. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 5, 339-347. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2015.59034.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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