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Curr Top Med Chem. 2011;11(19):2414-22.

A local, bottom-up perspective on sleep deprivation and neurobehavioral performance.

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  • 1Sleep and Performance Research Center and Neuroscience Program, Washington State University, Spokane, WA 99210-1495, USA.


Waking neurobehavioral performance is temporally regulated by a sleep/wake homeostatic process and a circadian process in interaction with a time-on-task effect. Neurobehavioral impairment resulting from these factors is task-specific, and characterized by performance variability. Several aspects of these phenomena are not well understood, and cannot be explained solely by a top-down (subcortically driven) view of sleep/wake and performance regulation. We present a bottom-up theory, where we postulate that task performance is degraded by local, use-dependent sleep in neuronal groups subserving cognitive processes associated with the task at hand. The theory offers explanations for the temporal dependence of neurobehavioral performance on time awake, time on task, and their interaction; for the effectiveness of task switching and rest breaks to overcome the time-on-task effect (but not the effects of sleep deprivation); for the task-specific nature of neurobehavioral impairment; and for the stochastic property of performance variability.

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