Using interstimulus interval to maximise sensitivity of the Psychomotor Vigilance Test to fatigue

Raymond W. Matthews, Sally A. Ferguson, Charli Sargent, Xuan Zhou, Anastasi Kosmadopoulos, Gregory D. Roach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


There is some evidence that short interstimulus intervals (ISIs) on the Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) are associated with longer and more varied reaction times (RTs). Preparation processes may impede RT following short ISIs, resulting in additional unexplained variance. The aims of this study were to investigate whether there is an effect of ISI on RT and errors within the PVT, and whether such an effect changes with three elements of fatigue: time of day, prior wake and time on task. Twelve male participants completed 49 PVTs across 7× 28 h periods of forced desynchrony. For analysis, RTs, reciprocal reaction times (1/RT), false starts and lapse responses within each 10 min session were assigned to a 1-s ISI group, a 2-min time of task group, a 2.5-h PW level and a 60° phase of the circadian rhythm of core body temperature (as a measure of time of day). Responses following short ISIs (2–5 s) were significantly slower and more varied than responses following longer ISIs (5–10 s). The likelihood of a lapse was also higher for short ISIs, while the probability of a false start increased as a function of ISI. These effects were independent of the influences of time of day, prior wake and time on task. Hence, mixed model ANOVAs comprising only long ISIs (5–10 s) contained stronger effect sizes for fatigue than a model of all ISIs (2–10 s). Including an ISI variable in a model improved the model fit and explained more variance associated with fatigue. Short ISIs resulted in long RTs both in the presence and absence of fatigue, possibly due to preparation processes or ISI conditioning. Hence, omitting short ISI trials from RT means or including an ISI variable in analysis can reduce unwanted variance in PVT data, improving the sensitivity of the PVT to fatigue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-410
Number of pages5
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Fatigue
  • Forced desynchrony
  • Neurocognitive performance
  • Preparedness
  • Psychomotor Vigilance Task
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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