Are Individual Differences in Fatigue Vulnerability Related to Baseline Differences in Cortical Activation?

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Recent evidence suggests that underlying patterns of cortical activation may partially account for individual differences in susceptibility to the effects of sleep deprivation. Here, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine the activation of military pilots whose sleep-deprivation vulnerability previously was quantified. A Sternberg Working Memory Task (SWMT; S. Sternberg, 1966) was completed alternately with a control task during a 13-min blood oxygen level-dependent fMRI scan. Examination of the activated voxels in response to SWMT indicated that, as a group, the pilots were more similar to fatigue-resistant nonpilots than to fatigue-vulnerable nonpilots. Within the pilots, cortical activation was significantly related to fatigue vulnerability on simulator-flight performance. These preliminary data suggest that baseline fMRI scan activation during a working memory task may correlate with fatigue susceptibility.

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