Frontal Lobe Function and Performance Monitoring following Total Sleep Deprivation
MetadataShow full item record
Imaging studies have shown reduced frontal lobe resources following total sleep deprivation (TSD). The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the frontal region plays a role in performance monitoring and cognitive control; both error detection and response inhibition are impaired following sleep loss. Event-related potentials (ERPs) are an electrophysiological tool used to index the brain's response to stimuli and information processing. In the Flanker task, the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe) ERPs are elicited after erroneous button presses. In a Go/NoGo task, NoGo-N2 and NoGo-P3 ERPs are elicited during high conflict stimulus processing. Research investigating the impact of sleep loss on ERPs during performance monitoring is equivocal, possibly due to task differences, sample size differences and varying degrees of sleep loss. Based on the effects of sleep loss on frontal function and prior research, it was expected that the sleep deprivation group would have lower accuracy, slower reaction time and impaired remediation on performance monitoring tasks, along with attenuated and delayed stimulus- and response-locked ERPs. In the current study, 49 young adults (24 male) were screened to be healthy good sleepers and then randomly assigned to a sleep deprived (n = 24) or rested control (n = 25) group. Participants slept in the laboratory on a baseline night, followed by a second night of sleep or wake. Flanker and Go/NoGo tasks were administered in a battery at 1O:30am (i.e., 27 hours awake for the sleep deprivation group) to measure performance monitoring. On the Flanker task, the sleep deprivation group was significantly slower than controls (p's <.05), but groups did not differ on accuracy. No group differences were observed in post-error slowing, but a trend was observed for less remedial accuracy in the sleep deprived group compared to controls (p = .09), suggesting impairment in the ability to take remedial action following TSD. Delayed P300s were observed in the sleep deprived group on congruent and incongruent Flanker trials combined (p = .001). On the Go/NoGo task, the hit rate (i.e., Go accuracy) was significantly lower in the sleep deprived group compared to controls (p <.001), but no differences were found on false alarm rates (i.e., NoGo Accuracy). For the sleep deprived group, the Go-P3 was significantly smaller (p = .045) and there was a trend for a smaller NoGo-N2 compared to controls (p = .08). The ERN amplitude was reduced in the TSD group compared to controls in both the Flanker and Go/NoGo tasks. Error rate was significantly correlated with the amplitude of response-locked ERNs in control (r = -.55, p=.005) and sleep deprived groups (r = -.46, p = .021); error rate was also correlated with Pe amplitude in controls (r = .46, p=.022) and a trend was found in the sleep deprived participants (r = .39, p =. 052). An exploratory analysis showed significantly larger Pe mean amplitudes (p = .025) in the sleep deprived group compared to controls for participants who made more than 40+ errors on the Flanker task. Altered stimulus processing as indexed by delayed P3 latency during the Flanker task and smaller amplitude Go-P3s during the Go/NoGo task indicate impairment in stimulus evaluation and / or context updating during frontal lobe tasks. ERN and NoGoN2 reductions in the sleep deprived group confirm impairments in the monitoring system. These data add to a body of evidence showing that the frontal brain region is particularly vulnerable to sleep loss. Understanding the neural basis of these deficits in performance monitoring abilities is particularly important for our increasingly sleep deprived society and for safety and productivity in situations like driving and sustained operations.