Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  2001 Dec;8(2):129-137.

Effects of Total Sleep Deprivation on Fine Motor Performance

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of 38-hour sleep deprivation on fine motor performance. The Motor Performance Series (MPS) in the Vienna Test System (computerized neurocognitive function tests) was used in this study.
Twenty four subjects principated in this study. Subjects had no past history of psychiatric disorders and physical illness. Subjects had normal sleep-waking cycle without current sleep disturbances and were all right-handed (Annett's Hand Preference Questionnaire : above +9 points). To minimize the learning effects, familiarization with the Vienna Test System was performed one day before the study. Subjects were to get up at 6 : 00 in the morning after getting enough sleep according to his or her usual sleep-wake cycle. After awakening, subjects remained awake for 38 hours under continuous surveillance. During two consecutive study days, the subjects tested MPS at 7 AM and 7 PM each day, which means the MPS was done four times in total. During the experiment, anything that could affect the subjects' sleep such as coffee, tea, alcohol, a nap, tiring sports, and all medications were prohibited.
In MPS, the fine motor functions of both hands decreased after 38 hours of sleep deprivation. The decrement in motor performance was prominent in the dominant right hand. In the right hand, the total number of tapping was reduced (p<.005), and the number of misses (p<.05) and the length of misses (p<.05) of line tracking, the total length of inserting a short pin (p<.01), the total length of inserting a long pin (p<.05), and the number of misses in aiming (p<.05) increased. Such performance decrement was distinct in the morning sessions.
These results suggest that fine motor performance decrement during sleep deprivation is predominant in the right hand, which exerts maximal motor function. The finding of decrement in motor function in tapping during sleep deprivation also suggested that the time required for exhaustion of muscles is shortened during sleep deprivation. More deterioration of motor performance was shown in the morning, which could be explained as circadian rhythm effects.


Total sleep deprivation; Fine motor performance; Motor Performance Test Series
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