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Coffee in the cornflakes: Time-of-day, routine response control and subjective sleepiness.
MANLY, T., Lewis, G.H., Robertson, I.H., Watson, P.C. & Datta, A.K.
Neuropsychologia, 40(1), 1-6
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Previous self-report based research has revealed a heightened propensity to slips-of-action in the early morning and at the end of the day. Here, using a computer task that is sensitive to 'absentminded' lapses, we examined performance variability among young adults as a function of time-of-day. It was hypothesised that the maintenance of active control would be vulnerable to circadian variability, while the more automatic aspects of the task would be stable. The results showed significantly higher error rates at 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. compared with 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and significant correlations between errors and two subjective sleepiness scales. No circadian modulation of the more routine aspects of the task, evidenced in reaction times, was observed. Given evidence that the circadian cycle differentially affects different brain regions and aspects of behaviour, examining time-of-day effects provides a useful additional methodology for the study of executive function.