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Free Content Comparison of sustained attention assessed by auditory and visual psychomotor vigilance tasks prior to and during sleep deprivation

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To date, no detailed examination of the pattern of change in reaction time performance for different sensory modalities has been conducted across the circadian cycle during sleep deprivation. Therefore, we compared sustained auditory and visual attention performance during 40 h of sleep deprivation assessing multiple metrics of auditory and visual psychomotor vigilance tasks (PVT). Forty healthy participants (14 women) aged 30.8 ± 8.6 years were studied. Subjects were scheduled for an ∼8 h sleep schedule at home prior to three–six laboratory baseline days with an 8 h sleep schedule followed by 40 h sleep deprivation. Visual and auditory PVTs were 10 min in duration, and were administered every 2 h during sleep deprivation. Data were analysed with mixed-modelanova. Sleep deprivation and circadian phase increased response time, lapses, anticipations, standard deviation of response times and time on task decrements for visual and auditory PVTs. In general, auditory vigilance was faster and less variable than visual vigilance, with larger differences between auditory and visual PVT during sleep deprivation versus baseline. Failures to respond to stimuli within 10 s were four times more likely to occur to visual versus auditory stimuli. Our findings highlight that lapses during sleep deprivation are more than just long responses due to eye closure or visual distraction. Furthermore, our findings imply that the general pattern of change in attention during sleep deprivation (e.g. circadian variation, response slowing, lapsing and anticipations, time on task decrements and state instability) is similar among sensory–motor behavioral response modalities.

Keywords: attention; errors of omission; fastest reaction times; neurobehavioral performance; slowest reaction times; state instability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, Center for Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 2: Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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