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Ergonomics. 2008 Jul;51(7):982-1010. doi: 10.1080/00140130701817062.

Blinks and saccades as indicators of fatigue in sleepiness warnings: looking tired?

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Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, Berlin University of Technology, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, Berlin, Germany.


The present study examines changes in a variety of oculomotoric variables as a function of increasing sleepiness in 129 participants, who have been passed through a broad range of subjective alertness. Up to now, spontaneous eye blinks are the most promising biosignal for in-car sleepiness warnings. Reviewing the current literature on eye movements and fatigue, experimental data are provided including additional indicative oculomotoric parameters; inter-individual differences in the experiments were also assessed. Here, self-rated alertness decreased over six steps on average and proved itself a reliable measurement. Regarding oculomotoric parameters, blink duration, delay of lid reopening, blink interval and standardised lid closure speed were identified as the best indicators of subjective as well as objective sleepiness. Saccadic parameters and fixation durations also showed specific changes with increasing sleepiness. Substantial inter-individual differences in all of these variables were illustrated. Oculomotoric parameters were linked to three different components of sleepiness while driving: a) deactivation; b) decreasing attention, resulting in disinhibition of spontaneous blinks and reflexive saccades; c) increasing attempts of self-activation. Finally, implications for the development of drowsiness detection devices were discussed.

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