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Sara Mednick, Neha Pathak, Ken Nakayama, Robert Stickgold; Perceptual deterioration predicts performance today. Journal of Vision 2002;2(7):66. doi: 10.1167/2.7.66.
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Last year we showed that repeated, within-day testing on a texture discrimination task (TDT) induced performance deterioration. This deterioration was retinotopically specific. That is, baseline performance was recovered when targets were switched to the contralateral field. Further, performance also recovered following an hour nap rich in slow wave sleep. We now show that performance on the TDT not only decreases with repeated testing, but it also predicts subsequent performance after a night of sleep, for nappers and non-nappers alike. Thus nappers showed better performance than controls both at 7pm and the following morning. 24 subjects were tested on the TDT at 9am (baseline) and 7pm (T1) on Day 1 and then at 9am the following morning (T2). Half the subjects took a polysomnographically monitored mid-day nap on Day 1. In both nappers and controls, subjects' initial change in performance (T1-baseline) was highly correlated with their final change in performance, (T2-baseline) (controls, r = 0.87; nappers, r = 0.58; combined groups, r = .80). Performance varied significantly in the control subjects across the day. In contrast, all nappers showed either improvement or maintenance of baseline performance across the day. At T2, only nappers showed normal improvement (T2 vs. baseline) following a night of sleep. We suggest that performance at T2 is highly dependent on an information processing capacity limit that can be reached as a consequence of over-practice at T1. This capacity limit appears to vary between individuals, but is consistently refreshed by both daytime napping and nocturnal sleep.
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