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The impact of luminance on tonic and phasic pupillary responses to sustained cognitive load

Abstract : Pupillary reactions independent of light conditions have been linked to cognition for a long time. However, the light conditions can impact the cognitive pupillary reaction. Previous studies underlined the impact of luminance on pupillary reaction, but it is still unclear how luminance modulates the sustained and transient components of pupillary reaction – tonic pupil diameter and phasic pupil response. In the present study, we investigated the impact of the luminance on these two components under sustained cognitive load. Fourteen participants performed a novel working memory task combining mathematical computations with a classic n-back task. We studied both tonic pupil diameter and phasic pupil response under low (1-back) and high (2-back) working memory load and two luminance levels (gray and white). We found that the impact of working memory load on the tonic pupil diameter was modulated by the level of luminance, the increase in tonic pupil diameter with the load being larger under lower luminance. In contrast, the smaller phasic pupil response found under high load remained unaffected by luminance. These results showed that luminance impacts the cognitive pupillary reaction – tonic pupil diameter (phasic pupil response) being modulated under sustained (respectively, transient) cognitive load. These findings also support the relationship between the locus-coeruleus system, presumably functioning in two firing modes – tonic and phasic – and the pupil diameter. We suggest that the tonic pupil diameter tracks the tonic activity of the locus-coeruleus while phasic pupil response reflects its phasic activity. Besides, the designed novel cognitive paradigm allows the simultaneous manipulation of sustained and transient components of the cognitive load and is useful for dissociating the effects on the tonic pupil diameter and phasic pupil response.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01419995
Contributor : Open Archive Toulouse Archive Ouverte (oatao) <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 11:35:30 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 5:23:21 PM

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Vsevolod Peysakhovich, François Vachon, Frédéric Dehais. The impact of luminance on tonic and phasic pupillary responses to sustained cognitive load. International Journal of Psychophysiology, Elsevier, 2017, vol. 112, pp. 40-45. ⟨10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2016.12.003⟩. ⟨hal-01419995⟩

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