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Behavioral and Brain Functions

, 7:31

First Online: 05 August 2011Received: 21 April 2011Accepted: 05 August 2011


BackgroundHealthy adults show considerable within-subject variation of reaction time RT when performing cognitive tests. So far, the neurophysiological correlates of these inconsistencies have not yet been investigated sufficiently. In particular, studies rarely have focused on alterations of prestimulus EEG-vigilance as a factor which possibly influences the outcome of cognitive tests. We hypothesised that a low EEG-vigilance state immediately before a reaction task would entail a longer RT. Shorter RTs were expected for a high EEG-vigilance state.

Methods24 female students performed an easy visual discrimination task while an electroencephalogram EEG was recorded. The vigilance stages of 1-sec-EEG-segments before stimulus presentation were classified automatically using the computer-based Vigilance Algorithm Leipzig VIGALL. The mean RTs of each EEG-vigilance stage were calculated for each subject. A paired t-test for the EEG-vigilance main stage analysis A vs. B and a variance analysis for repeated measures for the EEG-vigilance sub-stage analysis A1, A2, A3, B1, B2-3 were calculated.

ResultsIndividual mean RT was significantly shorter for events following the high EEG-vigilance stage A compared to the lower EEG-vigilance stage B. The main effect of the sub-stage analysis was marginal significant. A trend of gradually increasing RT was observable within the EEG-vigilance stage A.

ConclusionWe conclude that an automatically classified low EEG-vigilance level is associated with an increased RT. Thus, intra-individual variances in cognitive test might be explainable in parts by the individual state of EEG-vigilance. Therefore, the accuracy of neuro-cognitive investigations might be improvable by simultaneously controlling for vigilance shifts using the EEG and VIGALL.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1744-9081-7-31 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Juliane Minkwitz - Maja U Trenner - Christian Sander - Sebastian Olbrich - Abigail J Sheldrick - Peter Schönknecht - Ulri


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