Waking neurobehavioral performance is temporally regulated by a sleep/wake homeostatic process and a circadian process in interaction with a time-on-task effect. Neurobehavioral impairment resulting from these factors is taskspecific, and characterized by performance variability. Several aspects of these phenomena are not well understood, and cannot be explained solely by a top-down (subcortically driven) view of sleep/wake and performance regulation. We present a bottom-up theory, where we postulate that task performance is degraded by local, use-dependent sleep in neuronal groups subserving cognitive processes associated with the task at hand. The theory offers explanations for the temporal dependence of neurobehavioral performance on time awake, time on task, and their interaction; for the effectiveness of task switching and rest breaks to overcome the time-on-task effect (but not the effects of sleep deprivation); for the taskspecific nature of neurobehavioral impairment; and for the stochastic property of performance variability.
Keywords: Use-dependence, cognition, time on task, state instability, sleep homeostasis, near-infrared optical imaging, theory development, neurobehavioral performance, neurobehavioral impairment, stochastic property, behavioral domains, subjective sleepiness, homeostatic process, exogenous stimuli, evolutionary advantage
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