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Indian J Psychol Med. 2015 Apr-Jun;37(2):165-8. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.155615.

Executive Functions are not Affected by 24 Hours of Sleep Deprivation: A Color-Word Stroop Task Study.

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Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.



Sleep is an important factor affecting cognitive performance. Sleep deprivation results in fatigue, lack of concentration, confusion and sleepiness along with anxiety, depression and irritability. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences in professions like armed forces and medicine where quick decisions and actions need to be taken. Color-Word Stroop task is one of the reliable tests to assess attention and it analyzes the processing of information in two dimensions i.e., reading of words and naming of colour. The evidence regarding the effect of sleep deprivation on Stroop interference is conflicting. The present study evaluated the effect of 24 hours of sleep deprivation on reaction time and interference in Stroop task.


The present study was done on 30 healthy male medical student volunteers in the age group of 18-25 years after taking their consent and clearance from Institute Ethics Committee. Recordings of Stroop task were at three times: baseline (between 7-9 am), after 12 hours (7-9 pm) and after 24 hours (7-9 am, next day). The subjects were allowed to perform normal daily activities.


The study revealed a significant increase in reaction time after 24 hours of sleep deprivation in comparison to baseline and after 12 hours of sleep deprivation. There was no significant change in interference and facilitation after sleep deprivation in comparison to baseline. The number of errors also did not show any significant change after sleep deprivation.


The study indicated that there was slowing of responses without change in executive functions after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. It is probable that 24 hours of sleep deprivation does not bring about change in areas of brain affecting executive functions in healthy individuals who have normal sleep cycle. The present study indicated that in professions like armed forces and medicine working 24 hours at a stretch can lead to decrease in motor responses without affecting information processing and judgment ability.


Cognition; Stroop task; interference; sleep deprivation

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