Sleep deprivation influences some but not all processes of supervisory attention
Does one night of sleep deprivation alter processes of supervisory attention in general or only a specific subset of such processes? Twenty college-aged volunteers, half female, performed a choice reaction time task. A cue indicated that compatible (e.g., right button, right-pointing arrow) or incompatible (e.g., left button, right-pointing arrow) responses were to be given to a stimulus that followed 50 or 500 ms later. The paradigm assessed response inhibition, task-shifting skill, and task strategy—processes inherent in supervisory attention. Performance, along with heart rate, was assessed for 12 hr following normal sleep or a night of complete sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation altered neither preparation for task shifting nor response inhibition. The ability to use preparatory bias to speed performance did decrease with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation appears to selectively affect this supervisory attention process, which is perceived as an active effort to cope with a challenging task.