EEG and Alertness: Evaluating Non-Invasive Objective Measures of Fatigue in Medical Students

Meagan Lauber, Madisen Faulkner, Julie Mobley, Lauren Fowler, Matthew Tucker University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, Department of Biomedical Sciences, 701 Grove Rd, Greenville, SC 29605

Fatigue has long been an issue among healthcare workers, being associated with increased medical errors, decreased task efficiency, and lower quality of patient care. Due to the prevalence of shiftwork and the biological strain of operating against one’s circadian clock, medical professionals are at high risk for fatigue. To minimize accidental harm and optimize patient care, it is necessary to develop accessible, non-invasive, and validated measures of fatigue. Fatigue is often measured via self-report questionnaires, however, an approach that is limited, as fatigue is a multidimensional experience and such measures are inherently subjective. Therefore, it is prudent to develop an objective measure of fatigue that can be cross-validated with subjective data. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a reliable, non-invasive, and quantifiable measure of cognitive activity, and it presents an opportunity to objectively measure fatigue. Thirty-seven first- and second-year medical students were recruited from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville to participate in this experiment. Participants completed two consecutive data collection sessions, 12 hours apart, during which their responses on the Epworth Sleepiness and Karolinska Alertness Scales, both subjective fatigue measures, were recorded. To obtain a comparative objective measure of fatigue, participants’ brain waves were recorded continuously using a LiveAmp 32-channel EEG cap for 5 minutes. Data collection is ongoing, but we expect to find a positive correlation between scores on fatigue questionnaires and low-frequency theta and alpha wave EEG activity, with both measures demonstrating greater fatigue during the evening test condition. Fatigue has been demonstrated to have distinct cognitive and physiological dimensions, however, the accuracy of subjective measures in assessing these dimensions is still unclear. This distinction is significant, as medical professionals would be more likely to implement fatigue countermeasures if made aware that their physiological fatigue was higher than indicated by subjective assessments. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Meagan Lauber

Institution: University of South Carolina

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7053