Blue-Enriched Light Enhances Alertness but Impairs Accurate Performance in Evening Chronotypes Driving in the Morning
Madrid, Juan A.
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Rodríguez-Morilla B, Madrid JA, Molina E, Pérez-Navarro J and Correa Á (2018) Blue-Enriched Light Enhances Alertness but Impairs Accurate Performance in Evening Chronotypes Driving in the Morning. Front. Psychol. 9:688. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00688
Attention maintenance is highly demanding and typically leads to vigilance decrement along time on task. Therefore, performance in tasks involving vigilance maintenance for long periods, such as driving, tends to deteriorate over time. Cognitive performance has been demonstrated to fluctuate over 24 h of the day (known as circadian oscillations), thus showing peaks and troughs depending on the time of day (leading to optimal and suboptimal times of day, respectively). Consequently, vigilance decrements are more pronounced along time on task when it is performed at suboptimal times of day. According to research, light exposure (especially blue-enriched white) enhances alertness. Thus, it has been proposed to prevent the vigilance decrement under such adverse circumstances. We aimed to explore the effects of blue-enriched white light (vs. dim light) on the performance of a simulated driving task at a suboptimal time of day. A group of evening-types was tested at 8 am, as this chronotype had previously shown their largest vigilance decrement at that time. In the dim light condition, vigilance decrements were expected on both subjective (as increments in the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale scores) and behavioral measures [as slower reaction times (RTs) in the auditory Psychomotor Vigilance Task, slower RTs to unexpected events during driving, and deteriorated driving accuracy along time on task]. Physiological activation was expected to decrease (as indexed by an increase of the distal-proximal temperature gradient, DPG). Under blue-enriched white light, all these trends should be attenuated. Results from the control dim light condition replicated the vigilance decrement in all measures. Most important, the blue-enriched white light attenuated this decrement, leading to both lower DPG and faster RTs. However, it impaired accuracy of driving performance, and did not have any effect on subjective sleepiness. We conclude that exposure to blue-enriched light provides an effective countermeasure to enhance vigilance performance at suboptimal times of day, according to measures such as RTs. However, it should be considered that alerting effects of light could impair accuracy in precision tasks as keeping a proper car position. The current findings provide ergonomic implications for safety and fatigue related management systems.