Short term sleep deprivation, language comprehension and auditory temporal resolution

Harvey Babkoff, Leah Fostick, Gil Zukerman, Elisheva Ben-Artzi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Over the past several years there has been a shift in the theoretical construct or models used by sleep researchers to explain the effects of sleep deprivation on performance. The focus has changed from an emphasis on arousal mechanisms to that of prefrontal cortical activation and its associated cognitive functions. According to the latter theoretical construct, cognitive functions that are considered most vulnerable to short term sleep loss are language skills in communication, divergent thinking, creativity and cognitive flexibility. Although the theoretical framework for the impact of sleep deprivation on performance may have changed over time, nevertheless there has not been any increased interest in investigating the effects of sleep deprivation on sensory or perceptual functions. In the present chapter we develop the arguments for studying the impact of sleep loss on perceptual systems that are strongly associated with a cognitive function, such as language. Language comprehension and production have been strongly associated with auditory temporal resolution. Consequently we believe that performance on tasks based on auditory temporal resolution should be of paramount interest to researchers of the impact of short term sleep deprivation on cognitive functions. We present a reanalysis of auditory temporal resolution data published earlier to show how sleep loss impacts the ability to discriminate dichotic temporal order. The meaning of deficit in auditory temporal resolution and its possible relation to impairment in performing language-based tasks is not only theoretically interesting but may also be of practical use, e.g., when testing the effects of pharmacological or other putative treatments to ameliorate the effects of sleep loss on perceptual or cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSleep Deprivation
Subtitle of host publicationCauses, Effects and Treatment
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781607419747
StatePublished - 2009


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