PC-PVT: a platform for psychomotor vigilance task testing, analysis, and prediction

Behav Res Methods. 2014 Mar;46(1):140-7. doi: 10.3758/s13428-013-0339-9.


Using a personal computer (PC) for simple visual reaction time testing is advantageous because of the relatively low hardware cost, user familiarity, and the relative ease of software development for specific neurobehavioral testing protocols. However, general-purpose computers are not designed with the millisecond-level accuracy of operation required for such applications. Software that does not control for the various sources of delay may return reaction time values that are substantially different from the true reaction times. We have developed and characterized a freely available system for PC-based simple visual reaction time testing that is analogous to the widely used psychomotor vigilance task (PVT). In addition, we have integrated individualized prediction algorithms for near-real-time neurobehavioral performance prediction. We characterized the precision and accuracy with which the system as a whole measures reaction times on a wide range of computer hardware configurations, comparing its performance with that of the "gold standard" PVT-192 device. We showed that the system is capable of measuring reaction times with an average delay of less than 10 ms, a margin of error that is comparable to that of the gold standard. The most critical aspect of hardware selection is the type of mouse used for response detection, with gaming mice showing a significant advantage over standard ones. The software is free to download from http://bhsai.org/downloads/pc-pvt/ .

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Data Collection / instrumentation
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Data Display
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Research Design
  • Software Design
  • Software*
  • User-Computer Interface*