Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 189–198 | Cite as

Chronotype and time-of-day influences on the alerting, orienting, and executive components of attention

  • Robert L. MatchockEmail author
  • J. Toby Mordkoff
Research Article


Recent research on attention has identified three separable components, known as alerting, orienting, and executive functioning, which are thought to be subserved by distinct neural networks. Despite systematic investigation into their relatedness to each other and to psychopathology, little is known about how these three networks might be modulated by such factors as time-of-day and chronotype. The present study administered the Attentional Network Test (ANT) and a self-report measure of alertness to 80 participants at 0800, 1200, 1600, and 2000 hours on the same day. Participants were also chronotyped with a morningness/eveningness questionnaire and divided into evening versus morning/neither-type groups; morning chronotypes tend to perform better early in the day, while evening chronotypes show enhanced performance later in the day. The results replicated the lack of any correlations between alerting, orienting, and executive functioning, supporting the independence of these three networks. There was an effect of time-of-day on executive functioning with higher conflict scores at 1200 and 1600 hours for both chronotypes. The efficiency of the orienting system did not change as a function of time-of-day or chronotype. The alerting measure, however, showed an interaction between time-of-day and chronotype such that alerting scores increased only for the morning/neither-type participants in the latter half of the day. There was also an interaction between time-of-day and chronotype for self-reported alertness, such that it increased during the first half of the day for all participants, but then decreased for morning/neither types (only) toward evening. This is the first report to examine changes in the trinity of attentional networks measured by the ANT throughout a normal day in a large group of normal participants, and it encourages more integration between chronobiology and cognitive neuroscience for both theoretical and practical reasons.


Alertness Attention Chronotype Conflict Diurnal Eveningness Morningness Time-of-day 



We would like to thank Owen Camuso, Jessica Leer, and William Rusnak for their assistance with data collection.


  1. Adan A, Natale V (2002) Gender differences in morningness-eveningness preference. Chronobiol Int 19:709–720PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almirall H (1993) Including neither-type in the morningness-eveningness dimension decreases the robustness of the model. Percept Mot Skills 77:243–254PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baehr EK, Revelle W, Eastman CI (2000) Individual differences in the phase and amplitude of the human circadian temperature rhythm with an emphasis on morningness-eveningness. J Sleep Res 9:117–127PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baghdoyan HA, Spotts JL, Snyder SG (1993) Simultaneous pontine and basal forebrain microinjections of carbachol suppress REM sleep. J Neurosci 13:229–242PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbato G, Ficca G, Muscettola G, Fichele M, Beatrice M, Rinaldi F (2000) Diurnal variation in spontaneous eye-blink rate. Psychiatry Res 93:145–151PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benes FM (2000) Emerging principles of altered neural circuitry in schizophrenia. Brain Res Brain Res Rev 31:251–269PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beane M, Marrocco RT (2004) Norepinephrine and acetylcholine mediation of the components of reflexive attention: implication for attentoin deficit disorders. Prog Neurobiol 74:167–181PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bombin I, Arango C, Mayoral M, Castro-Fornieles J, Gonzalez-Pinto A, Gonzalez-Gomez C, Moreno D, Parellada M, Baeza I, Graell M, Otero S, Saiz PA, Patiño-Garcia A (2008) DRD3, but not COMT or DRD2, genotype affects executive functions in healthy and first-episode psychosis adolescents. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 147:873–879Google Scholar
  9. Bush G, Luu P, Posner MI (2000) Cognitive and emotional influences in the anterior cingulate cortex. Trends Cogn Sci 4:215–222PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cacot P, Tesolin B, Sebban C (1995) Diurnal variations of EEG power in healthy adults. Electroenceph Clin Neurophysiol 94:305–312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Callejas A, Lupianez J, Tudela P (2004) The three attentional networks: on their independence and interactions. Brain Cogn 54:225–227PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Callejas A, Lupianez J, Fumes MJ, Tudela P (2005) Modulations among the alerting, orienting and executive control networks. Exp Brain Res 167:27–37PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carrier J, Monk TH (2000) Circadian rhythms of performance: new trends. Chronobiol Int 17:719–732PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Casagrande M, Violani C, Curcio G, Bertini M (1997) Assessing vigilance through a brief pencil and paper letter cancellation task (LCT): effects of one night of sleep deprivation and of the time-of-day. Ergonomics 40:613–630PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Casagrande M, Martella D, Di Pace E, Pirri F, Guadalupi F (2006) Orienting and alerting: effect of 24 h of prolonged wakefulness. Exp Brain Res 171:184–193PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clodoré M, Foret J, Benoit O (1986) Diurnal variation in subjective and objective measures of sleepiness: the effects of sleep reduction and circadian type. Chronobiol Int 3:255–263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Daan S, Pittendrigh CS (1976) A functional analysis of circadian pacemakers in nocturnal rodents. II. The variability of phase response curves. J Comp Physiol 106:253–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davidson MC, Marrocco RT (2000) Local infusion of scopolamine into intraparietal cortex slows covert orienting in Rhesus monkeys. J Neurophysiol 83:1536–1549PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Doran AR, Pickar D, Labarca R, Douillet P, Wolkowitz OM, Thomas JW, Roy A, Paul SM (1985) Evidence for a daily rhythm of plasma HVA in normal controls but not in schizophrenic patients. Psychopharmacol Bull 21:694–697PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Duffy JF, Dijk D-J, Hall EF, Czeisler CA (1999) Relationship of endogenous circadian melatonin and temperature to self-reported preference for morning or evening activity in young and older people. J Investig Med 47:141–150PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Duffy JF, Rimmer DW, Czeisler CA (2001) Association of intrinsic circadian period with morningness-eveningness, usual wake time, and circadian phase. Behav Neurosci 115:895–899PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Duncan E, Bollini A, Sanfilipo M, Wieland S, Angrist B, Rotrosen J, Cooper TB (2006) Diurnal variation in plasma homovanillic acid in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls. Schizophr Res 81:323–326PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dye MWG, Bari DE, Bavelier D (2007) Which aspects of visual attention are changed by deadness? The case of the attentional network test. Neuropsychologia 45:1801–1811PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Edwards B, Waterhouse J, Reilly T (2007) The effects of circadian rhythmicity and time-awake on a simple motor task. Chronobiol Int 24:1109–1124PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Edwards B, Waterhouse J, Reilly T (2008) Circadian rhythms and their association with body temperature and time awake when performing a simple task with the dominant and non-dominant hand. Chronobiol Int 25:115–132PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Espeseth T, Greenwood PM, Reinvang I, Fjell AM, Walhovd KB, Westlye LT, Wehling E, Lundervold A, Rootwelt H, Parasuraman R (2006) Interactive effects of APOE and CHRNA4 on attention and white matter volume in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 6:31–43PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Eriksen BA, Eriksen CW (1974) Effects of noise letters upon the identification of a target letter in a nonsearch task. Percept Psychophys 16:143–149Google Scholar
  28. Fan J, Posner M (2004) Human attentional networks. Psychiatr Prax 31:S210–S214PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fan J, Wu Y, Fossella JA, Posner MI (2001) Assessing the heritability of attentional networks. BMC Neurosci 2:14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fan J, McCandliss BD, Sommer T, Raz A, Posner MI (2002) Testing the efficiency and independence of attentional networks. J Cogn Neurosci 14:340–347PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fan J, Flombaum JI, McCandliss BD, Thomas KM, Posner MI (2003) Cognitive and brain consequences of conflict. Neuroimage 18:42–57PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fan J, McCandliss BD, Fossella JA, Flombaum JI, Posner MI (2005) The activation of attentional networks. Neuroimage 26:471–479PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fan J, Byrne J, Worden MS, Guise KG, McCandliss BD, Fossella J, Posner MI (2007) The relation of brain oscillations to attentional networks. J Neurosci 27:6197–6206PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Faucheux B, Kuchel O, Cuche JL, Messerli FH, Buu NT, Barbeau A, Genest J (1976) Circadian variations of urinary excretion of catecholamines and electrolytes. Endocr Res Commun 3:257–272PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fibiger W, Singer G, Miller AJ, Armstrong S, Datar M (1984) Cortisol and catecholamines changes as functions of time-of-day and self-reported mood. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 8:523–530PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Folkard S (1983) Diurnal variation in human performance. In: Hockey GRJ (ed) Stress and fatigue in human performance. Wiley, Chichester, pp 245–272Google Scholar
  37. Folkard S, Spelten E, Totterdell P, Barton J, Smith L (1995) The use of survey measures to assess circadian variations in alertness. Sleep 18:355–361PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Foote SL, Berridge CW, Adams LM, Pineda JA (1991) Electrophysiological evidence for the involvement of the locus coeruleus in alerting, orienting, and attending. Prog Brain Res 88:521–532PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fossella J, Sommer T, Fan J, Wu Y, Swanson JM, Pfaff DW, Posner MI (2002) Assessing the molecular genetics of attention networks. BMC Neurosci 3:14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fuentes LJ, Campoy G (2008) The time course of alerting effect over orienting in the attention network test. Exp Brain Res 185:667–672PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Goldstein D, Hahn CS, Hasher L, Wiprzycka UJ, Zelazo PD (2007) Time of day, intellectual performance, and behavioral problems in morning versus evening type adolescents: is there a synchrony effect? Pers Individ Dif 42:431–440PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Guérin N, Boulenguiez S, Reinberg A, Di Costanzo G, Guran P, Touitou T (1991) Diurnal changes in psychophysiological variables of school girls: comparisons with regard to age and teacher’s appreciation of learning. Chronobiol Int 8:131–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hansen AM, Garde AH, Skovgaard LT, Christensen JM (2001) Seasonal and biological variation of urinary epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol in healthy women. Clin Chim Acta 309:25–35PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Horne JA, Ostberg O (1976) Self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms. Int J Chronbiol 4:179–190Google Scholar
  45. Horne JA, Ostberg O (1977) Individual differences in human circadian rhythms. Biol Psychol 5:179–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Horne JA, Brass CG, Pettitt AN (1980) Circadian performance differences between morning and evening types. Ergonomics 23:29–36PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Intons-Peterson MJ, Rocchi P, West T, McLellan K, Hackney A (1998) Aging, optimal testing times, and negative priming. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cog 24:362–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kerkhof GA, Korving HJ, Willemse-vd Geest HM, Rietveld WJ (1980) Diurnal differences between morning-type and evening-type subjects in self-rated alertness, body temperature, and the visual and auditory evoked potential. Neurosci Lett 16:11–15PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kleitman N (1963) Sleep and wakefulness. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  50. Konishi S, Chikazoe J, Jimura K, Asari T, Miyashita Y (2005) Neural mechanism in anterior prefrontal cortex for inhibition of prolonged set interference. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:12584–12588PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kraemer S, Danker-Hopfe H, Dorn H, Schmidt A, Ehlert I, Herrmann WM (2000) Time-of-day variations of indicators of attention: performance, physiologic parameters, and self-assessment of sleepiness. Biol Psychiatry 48:1069–1080PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lafrance C, Paquet J, Dumont M (2002) Diurnal time courses in psychomotor performance and waking EEG frequencies. Brain Cogn 48:625–631PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Latenkov VP (1985) Circadian rhythms of adrenalin and noradrenalin excretion in man under normal conditions and after taking alcohol. Biull Eksp Biol Med 99:344–346PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lal S, Tesfaye Y, Thavundayil JX, Skorzewska A, Schwartz G (2000) Effect of time-of-day on the yawning response to apomorhine in normal subjects. Neuropsychobiology 41:178–180PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lin JS, Hou Y, Sakai K, Jouvet M (1996) Histaminergic descending inputs to the mesopontine tegmentum and their role in the control of cortical activation and wakefulness in the cat. J Neurosci 16:1523–1537PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Linsell CR, Lightman SL, Mullen PE, Brown MJ, Causon RC (1985) Circadian rhythms of epinephrine and norepinephrine in man. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 60:1210–1215PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. MacDonald AW, Cohen JD, Stenger VA, Carter CS (2000) Dissociating the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex in cognitive control. Science 288:1835–1838PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Martin SK, Eastman CI (2002) Sleep logs of young adults with self-selected sleep times predict the dim light melatonin onset. Chronobiol Int 19:695–707PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Matchock RL, Mordkoff JT (2007) Visual attention, reaction time, and self-reported alertness upon awakening from sleep bouts of varying lengths. Exp Brain Res 178:228–239PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. May CP, Hasher L (1998) Synchrony effects in inhibitory control over thought and action. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 24:363–379PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. May CP, Hasher L, Foong N (2005) Implicit memory, age, and time of day: paradoxical priming effects. Psychol Sci 16:96–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Natale V, Cicogna P (1996) Circadian regulation of subjective alertness in morning and evening types. Pers Individ Dif 20:491–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Oken BS, Salinsky MC, Elsas SM (2006) Vigilance, alertness, or sustained attention: physiological basis and measurement. Clin Neurophysiol 17:1885–1901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Parasuraman R, Warm JS, See JE (1998) Brain systems of vigilance. In: Parasuraman R (ed) The attentive brain. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 221–256Google Scholar
  65. Pierdomenico SD, Bucci A, Constantini F, Lapenna D, Cuccurullo F, Mezzetti A (2000) Twenty-four-hour autonomic nervous function in sustained and “white coat” hypertension. Am Heart J 140:672–677PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Perry EK, Perry RH, Tomlinson BE (1977) Circadian variation in cholinergic enzymes and muscarinic receptor binding in human cerebral cortex. Neurosci Lett 4:185–189CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Posener JA, Schildkraut JJ, Samson JA, Schatzberg AF (1996) Diurnal variation of plasma cortisol and homovanillic acid in healthy subjects. Psychoneuroendocrinology 21:33–38PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Posner MI, Petersen SE (1990) The attention system of the human brain. Ann Rev Neurosci 13:25–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Raz A, Buhle J (2006) Typologies of attentional networks. Nat Rev Neurosci 7:367–379PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Refinetti R (2006) Circadian Physiology, 2nd edn. Taylor & Francis, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  71. Reilly T, Atkinson G, Edwards B, Waterhouse J, Farrelly K, Fairhurst E (2007) Diurnal variation in temperature, mental and physical performance, and tasks specifically related to football (soccer). Chronobiol Int 24:507–519PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rosenthal L, Day R, Gerhardstein R, Meixner R, Roth T, Guido P, Fortier J (2001) Sleepiness/alertness among healthy evening and morning type individuals. Sleep Med 2:243–248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schmidt C, Collette F, Cajochen C, Peigneux P (2007) A time to think: circadian rhythms in human cognition. Cogn Neuropsychol 24:755–789PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Smith CS, Folkard S, Schmieder RA, Parra LF, Spelten E, Almiral H, Sen RN, Sahu S, Perez LM, Tisak J (2002) Investigation of morning-evening orientation in six countries using the preferences scale. Pers Individ Dif 32:949–968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sturm W, Willmes K (2001) On the functional neuroanatomy of intrinsic and phasic alertness. Neuroimage 14(1 Pt 2):S76–S84PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Taillard J, Moore N, Claustrat B, Coste O, Bioulac B, Philip P (2006) Nocturnal sustained attention during sleep deprivation can be predicted by specific periods of subjective daytime alertness in normal young humans. J Sleep Res 15:41–45PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tanji J, Hoshi E (2008) Role of the lateral prefrontal cortex in executive behavioral control. Physiol Rev 88:37–57PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Thayer RE (1967) Measurement of activation through self-report. Psychol Rep 20:663–678PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Thayer RE (1978) Factor analytic and reliability studies on the activation-deactivation adjective check list. Psychol Rep 42:747–756PubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Toth M, Kiss A, Kosztolanyi P, Kondakor I (2007) Diurnal alterations of brain electrical activity in healthy adults: a LORETA study. Brain Topogr 20:63–76PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Witte EA, Marrocco RT (1997) Alteration of brain noradrenergic activity in rhesus monkeys affects the alerting component of covert orienting. Psychopharmacology 132:315–323PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wright KP, Hull JT, Czeisler CA (2002) Relationship between alertness, performance, and body temperature in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 283:R1370–R1377PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State University, Altoona Campus, E133B Smith BuildingAltoonaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, E11 Seashore HallUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

Personalised recommendations