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STUDY OBJECTIVES: To date, cognitive probe paradigms have been used in different guises to obtain reaction time measurements suggestive of an attention bias towards sleep in insomnia. This study adopts a methodology which is novel to sleep research to obtain a continual record of where the eyes-and therefore attention-are being allocated with regard to sleep and neutral stimuli. DESIGN: A head mounted eye tracker (Eyelink II,SR Research, Ontario, Canada) was used to monitor eye movements in respect to two words presented on a computer screen, with one word being a sleep positive, sleep negative, or neutral word above or below a second distracter pseudoword. Probability and reaction times were the outcome measures. PARTICIPANTS: Sleep group classification was determined by screening interview and PSQI (> 8 = insomnia, < 3 = good sleeper) score. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Those individuals with insomnia took longer to fixate on the target word and remained fixated for less time than the good sleep controls. Word saliency had an effect with longer first fixations on positive and negative sleep words in both sleep groups, with largest effect sizes seen with the insomnia group. CONCLUSIONS: This overall delay in those with insomnia with regard to vigilance and maintaining attention on the target words moves away from previous attention bias work showing a bias towards sleep, particularly negative, stimuli but is suggestive of a neurocognitive deficit in line with recent research.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1491 - 1499


Insomnia, attention, eye-tracking, fixations, neurocognitive deficits, Attention, Case-Control Studies, Eye Movement Measurements, Eye Movements, Female, Fixation, Ocular, Humans, Male, Reaction Time, Semantics, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders, Young Adult