The effect of 40 hours of constant wakefulness on number comparison performance

Michael B. Steinborn*, Daniel Bratzke, Bettina Rolke, Marijke C. M. Gordijn, Domien G. M. Beersma, Rolf Ulrich

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

We investigated the effects of sleep loss and circadian rhythm on number comparison performance. Magnitude comparison of single-digits is robustly characterized by a distance effect: Close numbers (e.g., 5 versus 6) produce longer reaction times than numbers further apart (e.g., 2 versus 8). This distance effect is assumed to reflect the difficulty of a comparison process based on an analogous representation of general magnitude. Twelve male participants were required to stay awake for 40 h in a quasi-constant-routine protocol. Response speed and accuracy deteriorated between 00: 00 and 06: 00 h but recovered afterwards during the next day, indicating a circadian rhythm of elementary cognitive function (i.e., attention and speed of mental processing). The symbolic distance effect, however, did not increase during the nighttime, indicating that neither cumulative sleep loss nor the circadian clock prolongs numerical comparison processes. The present findings provide first evidence for a relative insensitivity of symbolic magnitude processing against the temporal variation in energy state. (Author correspondence: michael.steinborn@uni-tuebingen.de)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-825
Number of pages19
JournalChronobiology International
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Reaction time
  • Sleep loss
  • Symbolic distance effect
  • PARTIAL SLEEP-DEPRIVATION
  • CIRCADIAN-RHYTHMS
  • DECISION-MAKING
  • TIME
  • TASK
  • ALERTNESS
  • MODEL
  • DISTANCE
  • MEMORY
  • NIGHT

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