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Current biomathematical models of fatigue and performance do not accurately predict cognitive performance for individuals with a priori unknown degrees of trait vulnerability to sleep loss, do not predict performance reliably when initial conditions are uncertain, and do not yield statistically valid estimates of prediction accuracy, These limitations diminish their usefulness for predicting the performance of individuals in operational environments. To overcome these 3 limitations, a novel modeling approach was developed, based on the expansion of a statistical technique called Bayesian forecasting. The expanded Bayesian forecasting procedure was implemented in the two-process model of sleep regulation, which has been used to predict performance on the basis of the combination of a sleep homeostatic process and a circadian process. Employing the two-process model with the Bayesian forecasting procedure to predict performance for individual subjects in the face of unknown traits and uncertain states entailed subject-specific optimization of 3 trait parameters (homeostatic build-up rate, circadian amplitude, and basal performance level) and 2 initial state parameters (initial homeostatic state and circadian phase angle). Prior information about the distribution of the trait parameters in the population at large was extracted from psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) performance measurements in 10 subjects who had participated in a laboratory experiment with 88 h of total sleep deprivation. The PVT performance data of 3 additional subjects in this experiment were set aside beforehand for use in prospective computer simulations. The simulations involved updating the subject-specific model parameters every time the next performance measurement became available, and then predicting performance 24 h ahead. Comparison of the predictions to the subjects' actual data revealed that as more data became available for the individuals at hand, the performance predictions became increasingly more accurate and had progressively smaller 95% confidence intervals, as the model parameters converged efficiently to those that best characterized each individual. Even when more challenging simulations were run (mimicking a change in the initial homeostatic state; simulating the data to be sparse), the predictions were still considerably more accurate than would have been achieved by the two-process model alone. Although the work described here is still limited to periods of consolidated wakefulness with stable circadian rhythms, the results obtained thus far indicate that the Bayesian forecasting procedure can successfully overcome some of the major outstanding challenges for biomathematical prediction of cognitive performance in operational settings.


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Original Publication Citation

Van Dongen, H. P. A., Mott, C. G., Huang, J. K., Mollicone, D. J., McKenzie, F. D., & Dinges, D. F. (2007). Optimization of biomathematical model predictions for cognitive performance impairment in individuals: Accounting for unknown traits and uncertain states in homeostatic and circadian processes. Sleep, 30(9), 1129-1143. doi:10.1093/sleep/30.9.1129