Sleep deprivation alters functioning within the neural network underlying the covert orienting of attention

Bryce A. Mander, Kathryn J. Reid, Vijay K. Davuluri, Dana M. Small, Todd B. Parrish, M. Marsel Mesulam, Phyllis C. Zee, Darren R. Gitelman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


One function of spatial attention is to enable goal-directed interactions with the environment through the allocation of neural resources to motivationally relevant parts of space. Studies have shown that responses are enhanced when spatial attention is predictively biased towards locations where significant events are expected to occur. Previous studies suggest that the ability to bias attention predictively is related to posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) activation [Small, D.M., et al., 2003. The posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex mediate the anticipatory allocation of spatial attention. Neuroimage 18, 633-41]. Sleep deprivation (SD) impairs selective attention and reduces PCC activity [Thomas, M., et al., 2000. Neural basis of alertness and cognitive performance impairments during sleepiness. I. Effects of 24 h of sleep deprivation on waking human regional brain activity. J. Sleep Res. 9, 335-352]. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that SD would affect PCC function and alter the ability to predictively allocate spatial attention. Seven healthy, young adults underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) following normal rest and 34-36 h of SD while performing a task in which attention was shifted in response to peripheral targets preceded by spatially informative (valid), misleading (invalid), or uninformative (neutral) cues. When rested, but not when sleep-deprived, subjects responded more quickly to targets that followed valid cues than those after neutral or invalid cues. Brain activity during validly cued trials with a reaction time benefit was compared to activity in trials with no benefit. PCC activation was greater during trials with a reaction time benefit following normal rest. In contrast, following SD, reaction time benefits were associated with activation in the left intraparietal sulcus, a region associated with receptivity to stimuli at unexpected locations. These changes may render sleep-deprived individuals less able to anticipate the locations of upcoming events, and more susceptible to distraction by stimuli at irrelevant locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Jun 27 2008


  • Attention
  • Functional imaging
  • Sleep deprivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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