Examining Sources of Individual Variation in Sustained Attention


Sustained attention and psychomotor reactions are foundational components of performance in many laboratory and applied tasks. In sleep research studies, individual differences in baseline attentional vigilance are compounded by individual differences in vulnerability to the negative consequences of fatigue due to sleep loss, producing large differences in reaction time profiles. In this paper, we present a theory and model to explain individual differences in reaction time performance in a sustained attention task, both at baseline and as overall alertness declines across 88 hrs without sleep. The model captures the performance of individual human participants, and illustrates how individual differences in processing speed and differences in susceptibility to fatigue from sleep loss may combine to produce unique performance profiles.

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