Towards continuous and real-time attention monitoring at work: reaction time versus brain response

Ergonomics. 2017 Feb;60(2):241-254. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2016.1142121. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


Continuous and objective measurement of the user attention state still represents a major challenge in the ergonomics research. Recently available wearable electroencephalography (EEG) opens new opportunities for objective and continuous evaluation of operators' attention, which may provide a new paradigm in ergonomics. In this study, wearable EEG was recorded during simulated assembly operation, with the aim to analyse P300 event-related potential component, which provides reliable information on attention processing. In parallel, reaction times (RTs) were recorded and the correlation between these two attention-related modalities was investigated. Negative correlation between P300 amplitudes and RTs has been observed on the group level (p < .001). However, on the individual level, the obtained correlations were not consistent. As a result, we propose the P300 amplitude for accurate attention monitoring in ergonomics research. On the other hand, no significant correlation between RTs and P300 latency was found on group, neither on individual level. Practitioner Summary: Ergonomic studies of assembly operations mainly investigated physical aspects, while mental states of the assemblers were not sufficiently addressed. Presented study aims at attention tracking, using realistic workplace replica. It is shown that drops in attention could be successfully traced only by direct brainwave observation, using wireless electroencephalographic measurements.

Keywords: Attention; P300; event-related potentials; reaction times; wireless EEG.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Brain*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Reaction Time*
  • Work*
  • Young Adult