There is mounting evidence for a link between insufficient sleep, cognitive deficits, and impaired health behavior decision making. In light of the NIH's call for more research on the mechanisms underlying personal health behavior decisions, this project seeks to shift the scientific focus from the largely intractable problem of improving sleep quality and quantity to the profound but treatable effects of sleep loss on decision making, in order to break the link between sleep loss and adverse health behavior outcomes. Addressing the long ignored problem that laboratory tasks of cognitive performance involve multiple, intertwined cognitive processes (task impurity), we will be the first to investigate how differential degradation of distinct components of cognition due to sleep loss, alone and in interaction with key modifying factors (information salience, affective loading and outcome uncertainty), impacts on decision making while sleep deprived. We will address three specific aims. 1) Evidence from our preliminary data suggests that sleep deprivation causes deficits in encoding of information, which may propagate through to faulty decisions. We will determine the impact of sleep deprivation on information encoding, and on associated downstream decision making. Furthermore, we will investigate the interaction with information salience. 2) Sleep deprivation has been reported to exacerbate working memory performance deficits in concert with working memory load. We will determine the impact of sleep deprivation on working memory, and on downstream decision making, as a function of working memory load. We will also investigate the interaction with affective loading of information in working memory. 3) Sleep deprived individuals are reported to make more high risk choices, even when aware of the consequences. We will determine the impact of sleep deprivation on the decision making process, independently of any upstream constraints from stimulus encoding and working memory, and on the associated risks people take in decision making. We will account for the emotional context (framing) of decision making, and will also investigate the interaction of the effects of sleep deprivation with outcome uncertainty. A 7-day in-residence laboratory study design involving randomization to a 62-hour total sleep deprivation or a control group will be used to investigate the effects of sleep deprivation on distinct components of cognition in the decision making cascade, and on the associated downstream decisions made, in a sample of N=24 subjects per specific aim (total N=72). The study design will allow for both within-subjects and between-subjects hypothesis testing based on cognitive performance data obtained under standardized, highly controlled conditions. At the completion of the project, we will have an evidence-based, theoretical framework for developing effective interventions to improve decision making while sleep deprived. Translation into practice will promote more optimal health behavior decision making under increasingly prevalent circumstances of insufficient sleep, by employing information salience, controlling affective loading, and harnessing outcome uncertainty to improve cognitive performance in decision making.
There is a link between insufficient sleep, cognitive deficits, and impaired health behavior decision making, which is difficult to break because sleep loss is ingrained in today's society and inherently associated with many clinical disorders. We propose to lay the foundation for a new way to break this link, focusing on the mechanisms underlying the cognitive deficits in decision making associated with sleep loss. We will conduct a laboratory study examining the effects of sleep deprivation and other key modifying factors on experimentally isolated components of cognition in decision making. Translation of our findings into practice will promote more optimal health behavior decision making by employing information salience, controlling affective loading, and harnessing outcome uncertainty to improve cognitive performance in decision making.
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