Physiological synchrony in electrodermal activity predicts decreased vigilant attention induced by sleep deprivation

Ivo V. Stuldreher*, Emma Maasland, Charelle Bottenheft, Jan B.F. van Erp, Anne-Marie Brouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Introduction: When multiple individuals are presented with narrative movie or
audio clips, their electrodermal activity (EDA) and heart rate show significant
similarities. Higher levels of such inter-subject physiological synchrony are related
with higher levels of attention toward the narrative, as for instance expressed
by more correctly answered questions about the narrative. We here investigate
whether physiological synchrony in EDA and heart rate during watching of
movie clips predicts performance on a subsequent vigilant attention task among
participants exposed to a night of total sleep deprivation.
Methods: We recorded EDA and heart rate of 54 participants during a night
of total sleep deprivation. Every hour from 22:00 to 07:00 participants watched
a 10-min movie clip during which we computed inter-subject physiological
synchrony. Afterwards, they answered questions about the movie and performed
the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) to capture attentional performance.
Results: We replicated findings that inter-subject correlations in EDA and heart
rate predicted the number of correct answers on questions about the movie
clips. Furthermore, we found that inter-subject correlations in EDA, but not in
heart rate, predicted PVT performance. Individuals’ mean EDA and heart rate also
predicted their PVT performance. For EDA, inter-subject correlations explained
more variance of PVT performance than individuals’ mean EDA.
Discussion: Together, these findings confirm the association between
physiological synchrony and attention. Physiological synchrony in EDA does
not only capture the attentional processing during the time that it is determined,
but also proves valuable for capturing more general changes in the attentional
state of monitored individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1199347
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Neuroergonomics
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2023


  • inter-subject correlation
  • psysiological synchrony
  • electrodermal activity
  • heart rate
  • sleep deprivation


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