DOI: 10.1101/501544Dec 19, 2018Paper

Sustaining attention for a prolonged period of time increases temporal variability in cortical responses

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Leon C. ReteigHeleen A Slagter


Our ability to stay focused for longer periods of time is limited: prolonged performance of a task typically results in the experience of mental fatigue and a decrement in performance over time. This so-called vigilance decrement has been attributed to depletion of attentional resources, though other factors such as reductions in motivation likely also play a role. In this study, we examined three different EEG markers of attentional control, to elucidate which stage of attentional processing is most affected by time-on-task and motivation. To elicit the vigilance decrement, participants performed a sustained attention task for 80 minutes without breaks. After 60 minutes, participants were motivated by an unexpected monetary incentive to increase performance in the final 20 minutes of the task. We found that task performance and self-reported levels of motivation declined rapidly, reaching a stable level well before the motivation manipulation was introduced. Thereafter, motivation increased back up to the initial level, and remained there for the final 20 minutes. While task performance also increased, it did not return to the initial level, and fell to the lowest level overall during the final 10 minutes. This pattern of perf...Continue Reading

Related Concepts

Biological Markers
Cerebral Cortex
Clinical Trials
Mental Fatigue
Brain Waves
Pharmacologic Substance

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