The effect of acute sleep deprivation on visual evoked potentials in professional drivers

Melinda L. Jackson, Rodney J. Croft, Katherine Owens, Robert J. Pierce, Gerard A. Kennedy, David Crewther, Mark E. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: Previous studies have demonstrated that as little as 18 hours of sleep deprivation can cause deleterious effects on performance. It has also been suggested that sleep deprivation can cause a "tunnel-vision" effect, in which attention is restricted to the center of the visual field. The current study aimed to replicate these behavioral effects and to examine the electrophysiological underpinnings of these changes. Design: Repeated-measures experimental study. Setting: University laboratory. Patients or Participants: Nineteen professional drivers (1 woman; mean age = 45.3 ± 9.1 years). Interventions: Two experimental sessions were performed; one following 27 hours of sleep deprivation and the other following a normal night of sleep, with control for circadian effects. Measurements & Results: A tunnel-vision task (central versus peripheral visual discrimination) and a standard checkerboard-viewing task were performed while 32-channel EEG was recorded. For the tunnel-vision task, sleep deprivation resulted in an overall slowing of reaction times and increased errors of omission for both peripheral and foveal stimuli (P < 0.05). These changes were related to reduced P300 amplitude (indexing cognitive processing) but not measures of early visual processing. No evidence was found for an interaction effect between sleep deprivation and visual-field position, either in terms of behavior or electrophysiological responses. Slower processing of the sustained parvocellular visual pathway was demonstrated. Conclusions: These findings suggest that performance deficits on visual tasks during sleep deprivation are due to higher cognitive processes rather than early visual processing. Sleep deprivation may differentially impair processing of more-detailed visual information. Features of the study design (eg, visual angle, duration of sleep deprivation) may influence whether peripheral visual-field neglect occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1261-1269
Number of pages9
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Circadian effects
  • Driving
  • Event-related potentials
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Visual field

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