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Computational cognitive modeling of the temporal dynamics of fatigue from sleep loss

Computational cognitive modeling of the temporal dynamics of fatigue from sleep loss

Published in: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Volume 24, Issue 6, December 2017, 1785-1807

“Computational models have become common tools in psychology. They provide quantitative instantiations of theories that seek to explain the functioning of the human mind. In this paper, we focus on identifying deep theoretical similarities between two very different models. Both models are concerned with how fatigue from sleep loss impacts cognitive processing. The first is based on the diffusion model and posits that fatigue decreases the drift rate of the diffusion process. The second is based on the Adaptive Control of Thought – Rational (ACT-R) cognitive architecture and posits that fatigue decreases the utility of candidate actions leading to microlapses in cognitive processing. A biomathematical model of fatigue is used to control drift rate in the first account and utility in the second. We investigated the predicted response time distributions of these two integrated computational cognitive models for performance on a psychomotor vigilance test under conditions of total sleep deprivation, simulated shift work, and sustained sleep restriction. The models generated equivalent predictions of response time distributions with excellent goodness-of-fit to the human data. More importantly, although the accounts involve different modeling approaches and levels of abstraction, they represent the effects of fatigue in a functionally equivalent way: in both, fatigue decreases the signal-to-noise ratio in decision processes and decreases response inhibition. This convergence suggests that sleep loss impairs psychomotor vigilance performance through degradation of the quality of cognitive processing, which provides a foundation for systematic investigation of the effects of sleep loss on other aspects of cognition. Our findings illustrate the value of treating different modeling formalisms as vehicles for discovery.”

Written by: Matthew M. Walsh, Glenn Gunzelmann, Hans P. A. Van Dongen
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