The physiological experience of the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT): does the PASAT induce autonomic arousal?

Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology : the Official Journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists
Charles W MathiasRebecca J Houston

Abstract

Previous research suggests that the Paced Auditory Serial Attention Task (PASAT) alters mood states, which may induce performance changes and complicate interpretation test scores. In the current design, we examined arousal as one mechanism moderating PASAT performance. It was expected that arousal level would increase during the test, and performance on the test would be related to arousal level. Heart rate and blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) were recorded from 42 healthy adult men during rest and PASAT challenge. Heart rate and blood pressure were significantly higher and stable across the PASAT procedure, while performance scores showed a steady decrease in correct responses. No association of arousal level and performance was found. Although, PASAT induced arousal changes were not significantly related to performance among healthy adults, the observed arousal changes do raise concerns about interpretation of PASAT performance among more sensitive populations and indicate new areas of application of the procedure.

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