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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00237

Relationship of event-related potentials to the vigilance decrement.

 Ashley Haubert1*, Matthew Walsh2,  Rachel Boyd3,  Megan Morris4, Megan Wiedbusch5, Michael Krusmark6 and Glenn Gunzelmann7
  • 1University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), United States
  • 2TiER1 (United States), United States
  • 3Georgia Institute of Technology, United States
  • 4Ball Aerospace & Technologies, United States
  • 5Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), United States
  • 6L-3 Communications (United States), United States
  • 7Air Force Research Laboratory, United States

Cognitive fatigue emerges in wide-ranging tasks and domains, but traditional vigilance tasks provide a well-studied context in which to explore the mechanisms underlying it. Though a variety of experimental methodologies have been used to investigate cognitive fatigue in vigilance, relatively little research has utilized electroencephalography (EEG), specifically event-related potentials (ERPs), to explore the nature of cognitive fatigue, also known as the vigilance decrement. Moreover, much of the research that has been done on vigilance and ERPs uses non-traditional vigilance paradigms, limiting generalizability to the established body of behavioral results and corresponding theories. In this study, we address concerns with prior research by 1) investigating the vigilance decrement using a well-established visual vigilance task, 2) utilizing a task designed to attenuate possible confounding ERP components present within a vigilance paradigm, and 3) informing our interpretations with recent findings from ERP research. We averaged data across electrodes located over the frontal, central, and parietal scalp. Then, we generated waveforms locked to the onset of critical low-frequency or non-critical high-frequency events during a 40 minute task that was segregated into time blocks for data analysis. There were three primary findings from the analyses of these data. First, mean amplitude of N1 was greater during later blocks for both low-frequency and high-frequency events, a contradictory finding compared to past visual vigilance studies that is further discussed with respect to current interpretations of the N1 in visual attention tasks. Second, P3b mean amplitude following low-frequency events was reduced during later blocks, with a later onset latency. Third and finally, the decrease in P3b amplitude correlated with individual differences in the magnitude of the vigilance decrement, assessed using d’. The results provide evidence for degradations of cognitive processing efficiency brought on by extended time on task, leading to delayed processing and decreased discriminability of critical stimuli from non-critical stimuli. These conclusions are discussed in the context of the vigilance decrement and corresponding theoretical accounts.

Keywords: EEG, ERP (event related potentials), Vigilance decrement, N1 amplitudes, P3b, Resource-control theory, resource-depletion, Mindwandering, modeling

Received: 24 Nov 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Philippe Peigneux, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Adina Mornell, Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, Germany
Guillermo Borragán, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium  

Copyright: © 2018 Haubert, Walsh, Boyd, Morris, Wiedbusch, Krusmark and Gunzelmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mrs. Ashley Haubert, University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), Dayton, OH, United States,