Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William F. Waters


Extended sleep deprivation has been shown to produce impairments in sustained attention and vigilance, especially if the deprivation period is greater than 48 hours. However little is known about the effects of sleep deprivation on performance of cognitive tasks considered to be measures of higher cortical functioning such as cognitive flexibility and the capacity to shift response set. These two activities are associated with intact functioning of the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex while attention and vigilance tasks are not considered to be part of this type of cognitive activity and are not associated with frontal lobe function. One current hypothesis is that sleep deprivation of a shorter duration (34-36 hours) adversely affects higher cortical function while effects on attention and vigilance are relatively mild. Performance on an intelligence test, a test of sustained attention and tests designed to measure higher cortical function were compared in a group of 29 subjects who underwent 34-36 hours of continuous sleep deprivation and 32 normal sleeping control subjects. No significant group performance differences were noted on any measure. One night of total sleep deprivation does not appear to significantly impair performance on tasks that are designed to assess higher cortical functioning or frontal lobe function.