Individual and Age Differences in Circadian Arousal
The second goal of our research (along with Cynthia May, Ph.D.) is to explore the impact of circadian variations in peak arousal on cognitive performance in younger and older adults. There are age differences in periods of peak arousal: most older adults have optimal times in the morning, whereas many college students have peak times towards the evening.
Recent research suggests that certain cognitive processes may follow circadian arousal rhythms such that cognitive performance is better during periods of peak arousal.
Currently, we are attempting to identify those specific cognitive processes which are affected by the synchrony of time of testing and peak arousal periods. Recent findings suggest stronger synchrony effects for inhibitory processes relative to excitatory processes. We are also investigating whether these synchrony effects are greater for older adults than younger adults. Finally, we are exploring whether or not these differences in arousal patterns will influence specific inhibitory functions, such as control over thoughts and control over strong, prepotent responses.