Flotation REST and Information Processing: A Reaction Time Study

  • Daniel S. O’Leary
  • Robert L. Heilbronner
Part of the Recent Research in Psychology book series (PSYCHOLOGY)


There has historically been much debate on the effects of sensory isolation on cognitive functioning and state of arousal. This preliminary study examines the effects of flotation REST on arousal and attention. The speed of manual response to a simple visual stimulus and a more complex two-choice reaction time task were used to assess cognitive alertness and attention. Physiological measures of the relaxation response, heart and blood pressure and mood state were recorded also. Twelve subjects experienced two REST and two control sessions (one per day, 45 min) in alternating sequence (REST-control-REST-control or vice versa). The results revealed significant decreases in heart rate and blood pressure in REST but not in control conditions. The reaction time tasks were performed equally well in REST and control, suggesting that neither cognitive disorganization nor enhancement of attention occurred in REST. Reported mood changes in REST included decreased anxiety and tension and increased energy. No changes in mood occurred in the control condition. Although the results of this study do not rule out the possibility that cognitive disorganization can occur in REST, it appears that REST is associated with relaxation leading to lowered anxiety and increased feelings of energy with no change in cognitive performance.


Reaction Time Task Simple Reaction Time Test Administration Sensory Deprivation Visual Reaction Time 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel S. O’Leary
  • Robert L. Heilbronner

There are no affiliations available

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