Using a novel gradual onset continuous performance task (gradCPT), recent research has uncovered a brain network of the sustained attention ability, demonstrating marked individual differences. Yet much about the cognitive processes that support performance on the gradCPT remains unknown. Here, we tested the importance of response inhibition and perceptual discrimination in the gradCPT. Participants monitored a continuous stream of natural scenes from two categories—cities and mountains—with a 9:1 ratio. In separate task blocks, they responded either to the frequent or the rare, yielding a response rate of either 90% or 10%. Performance was much worse, and declined more significantly over time, when the required response rate was higher. To test the role of stimulus onset, separate task blocks presented the scenes either gradually, with adjacent scenes blending into each other (gradCPT), or abruptly, with a single scene visible at a time (abruptCPT). Despite its increased complexity, the gradCPT yielded better performance than the abruptCPT, contradicting the perceptual complexity hypothesis and suggesting a detrimental role of the automaticity of responses to rhythmic stimuli in sustained attention. Further bolstering the role of response inhibition in the gradCPT, participants with superior inhibitory function, as assessed by the “stop-signal” task, did better on the gradCPT. These findings show that response inhibition contributes to the ability to sustain attention, especially in tasks that require frequent and repetitive responses as in assembly-line jobs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported in part by a Gloria J. Randahl graduate fellowship. We thank Roger Remington, Wilma Koutstaal, Caitlin Sisk, Yi Ni Toh, and Annie Chen for comments and suggestions
© 2021, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.
- Continuous performance task
- Go/no-go task
- Response inhibition
- Stop-signal task
- Sustained attention
- Vigilance decrement
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article