Effects of 42 hr of total sleep deprivation on component processes of verbal working memory

Neuropsychology. 2007 Nov;21(6):787-95. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.21.6.787.


The current investigation examined changes in working memory (WM) component processes following total sleep deprivation (TSD) in a sample of healthy young persons. Forty subjects were administered a verbal form of a continuous recognition test (CRT) before and after 42 hr of TSD. Parameters of a computational model of the CRT reflecting attention, WM span, and rate of episodic memory encoding were estimated for each individual. Subjects made more errors on the test following sleep deprivation. Analysis of model parameters revealed statistically independent declines in both the attention and WM span parameters, with a larger effect observed for the decline in WM span. Examination of individual profiles suggested that the effects of TSD on verbal WM component processes vary from person to person. Declines in global verbal WM functioning appear to be primarily driven by reduced WM span and attention; however, these effects may be individual-specific. Further applications of the computational model for examining WM component processes with sleep deprivation and other clinical populations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*