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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Mar 27;8:171. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00171. eCollection 2014.

The effect of body posture on cognitive performance: a question of sleep quality.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany ; Department of Psychology, Neuroimaging Center, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany.
2
Department of Psychology, Neuroimaging Center, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany ; Section of Systems Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany.
3
Department of Psychology, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany.
4
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany.

Abstract

Nearly all functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies are conducted in the supine body posture, which has been discussed as a potential confounder of such examinations. The literature suggests that cognitive functions, such as problem solving or perception, differ between supine and upright postures. However, the effect of posture on many cognitive functions is still unknown. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of body posture (supine vs. sitting) on one of the most frequently used paradigms in the cognitive sciences: the N-back working memory paradigm. Twenty-two subjects were investigated in a randomized within-subject design. Subjects performed the N-back task on two consecutive days in either the supine or the upright posture. Subjective sleep quality and chronic stress were recorded as covariates. Furthermore, changes in mood dimensions and heart rate variability (HRV) were assessed during the experiment. Results indicate that the quality of sleep strongly affects reaction times when subjects performed a working memory task in a supine posture. These effects, however, could not be observed in the sitting position. The findings can be explained by HRV parameters that indicated differences in autonomic regulation in the upright vs. the supine posture. The finding is of particular relevance for fMRI group comparisons when group differences in sleep quality cannot be ruled out.

KEYWORDS:

ECG; N-back; alertness; arousal; fMRI; heart rate variability; posture; sleep quality

PMID:
24723874
PMCID:
PMC3973903
DOI:
10.3389/fnhum.2014.00171
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