Awake at Night: Implications on Working Memory


Janet Donnelly


Dr. June J. Pilcher


Industrial/Organizational Psychology (College of Business and Behavioral Science)


Working memory (WM) plays a critical role in performance of many tasks. The purpose of the current study is to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on accuracy in WM tasks. Participants included 76 college students (49 males, 27 females) in a total sleep deprivation study. Participants stayed awake all night and completed a series of tasks during four testing sessions. The AX task required participants to view a string of letters containing distractor letters and indicate if the presented set of letters began with “A” and ended with “X”. Two tasks from the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) were also used. In the Code Substitution Immediate, participants had to recall a key of numbers and symbols from their practice session and indicate if the provided symbol matched the stimulus displayed. In the Continuous Performance Test, participants were presented with 179 single-digit numbers and performed a 1-back task. Results from three repeated measures ANOVAs assessing the accuracy of responses for each of the tasks throughout testing sessions indicates that accuracy on all three WM tasks significantly decreased across the night (p<.000). Since WM and sleep play a critical role in performance, this research can be applied to the working population.

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