Research on the effects of sleep deprivation on covert orienting of attention have produced evidence indicating either a negative or a null impact of sleep loss. Moreover, it is still unclear whether, following sleep deprivation, there is a general impairment of orienting processes or a selective one. Aim of the present study is highlighting the effects of sleep deprivation on the three subcomponents of orienting of attention: disengagement, moving and engagement (Posner and Raichle, 1994). The ANT-R (Fan et al., 2009) was administered following two sleep conditions: Baseline - a regular night of uninterrupted sleep, and Deprivation - 24 hours of total sleep deprivation. We have found a significant slowing down of the disengagement component, while engagement and shift components were virtually unaffected by sleep deprivation. Our data show that sleep deprivation selectively affects the three subcomponents underlying covert orienting of attention. Hence, they suggest that performance deficits following sleep curtailment should no longer be accounted for in terms of a general reduction of alertness or global attentional deficits.
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