Self-monitoring cognitive performance during sleep deprivation: effects of modafinil, d-amphetamine and placebo
Self-monitoring refers to the ability to assess accurately one's own performance in a specific environment. The present study investigated the effects of the stimulating drugs modafinil (300 mg) and d-amphetamine (20 mg) on the ability to self-monitor cognitive performance during 64 h of sleep deprivation (SD) and sustained mental work. Two cognitive tasks were investigated: a visual (perceptual) judgment task and a complex mental addition task. Subjects in the placebo condition displayed marked circadian and SD effects on cognitive task performance but their self-monitoring was substantively undisturbed by SD. Subjects performing under the influence of d-amphetamine likewise displayed highly proficient self-monitoring throughout the SD period. In contrast, modafinil had a disruptive effect on self-monitoring, inducing a reliable «overconfidence» effect (i.e. an overestimation of actual cognitive performance), which was particularly marked 2–4 h post-dose. Although modafinil has proven to be a safe and effective countermeasure to the effects of extensive SD on cognitive task performance, we encourage a more comprehensive understanding of the relation between its subjective and performance enhancing effects before the drug is recommended as a viable fatigue countermeasure.
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