Topographic electroencephalogram changes associated with psychomotor vigilance task performance after sleep deprivation

Maurizio Gorgoni, Fabio Ferlazzo, Michele Ferrara, Fabio Moroni, Aurora D'Atri, Stefania Fanelli, Isabella Gizzi Torriglia, Giulia Lauri, Cristina Marzano, Paolo Maria Rossini, Luigi De Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) is a widely used method for the assessment of vigilance after sleep deprivation (SDEP). However, the neural basis of PVT performance during SDEP has not been fully understood. In particular, no studies have investigated the possible relation between EEG topographical changes after sleep loss and PVT performance. The aim of the present study is to assess the EEG topographic correlates of PVT performance after SDEP. Methods: During 40 h of SDEP, 16 healthy male subjects were evaluated in four sessions performed at the same time (11:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.) of the first and second day with: (a) subjective sleepiness recordings by means of the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS); (b) EEG recordings (5 min eyes-open condition); and (c) PVT. Results: SDEP induced a slowing of PVT reaction times (RTs), higher level of subjective sleepiness and an increase of delta, theta, alpha and beta 1 EEG activity. Only slowest PVT RTs were influenced by circadian factors, with longer RTs in the morning. Both fastest PVT RTs and KSS scores were positively correlated with post-SDEP changes in EEG theta activity, mainly in centro-posterior areas, but not with other EEG frequencies. KSS scores and PVT measures were also positively correlated. Conclusions: These findings suggest that SDEP differently affects PVT variables, and that an increase in theta activity may be the principal EEG basis of the post-SDEP slowing of fastest PVT RTs. Similar neural mechanisms seem to underlie both performance deterioration to PVT and the increase of subjective sleepiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1132-1139
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • EEG power
  • Karolinska Sleepiness Scale
  • Psychomotor vigilance task
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleepiness
  • Sustained attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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