2022 journal article

Working around the Clock: Is a Person's Endogenous Circadian Timing for Optimal Neurobehavioral Functioning Inherently Task-Dependent?

CLOCKS & SLEEP, 4(1), 23–36.

By: R. Muck*, A. Hudson*, K. Honn*, S. Gaddameedhi & H. Van Dongen

author keywords: cognitive throughput; constant routine; inter-individual differences; simulated shift-work; sleep; wake homeostasis; subjective sleepiness; vigilant attention
Source: Web Of Science
Added: April 18, 2022

Neurobehavioral task performance is modulated by the circadian and homeostatic processes of sleep/wake regulation. Biomathematical modeling of the temporal dynamics of these processes and their interaction allows for prospective prediction of performance impairment in shift-workers and provides a basis for fatigue risk management in 24/7 operations. It has been reported, however, that the impact of the circadian rhythm-and in particular its timing-is inherently task-dependent, which would have profound implications for our understanding of the temporal dynamics of neurobehavioral functioning and the accuracy of biomathematical model predictions. We investigated this issue in a laboratory study designed to unambiguously dissociate the influences of the circadian and homeostatic processes on neurobehavioral performance, as measured during a constant routine protocol preceded by three days on either a simulated night shift or a simulated day shift schedule. Neurobehavioral functions were measured every 2 h using three functionally distinct assays: a digit symbol substitution test, a psychomotor vigilance test, and the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale. After dissociating the circadian and homeostatic influences and accounting for inter-individual variability, peak circadian performance occurred in the late biological afternoon (in the "wake maintenance zone") for all three neurobehavioral assays. Our results are incongruent with the idea of inherent task-dependent differences in the endogenous circadian impact on performance. Rather, our results suggest that neurobehavioral functions are under top-down circadian control, consistent with the way they are accounted for in extant biomathematical models.