Sustained Attention in Real Classroom Settings: An EEG Study

Li-Wei Ko*, Oleksii Komarov, W. David Hairston, Tzyy Ping Jung, Chin Teng Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Sustained attention is a process that enables the maintenance of response persistence and continuous effort over extended periods of time. Performing attention-related tasks in real life involves the need to ignore a variety of distractions and inhibit attention shifts to irrelevant activities. This study investigates electroencephalography (EEG) spectral changes during a sustained attention task within a real classroom environment. Eighteen healthy students were instructed to recognize as fast as possible special visual targets that were displayed during regular university lectures. Sorting their EEG spectra with respect to response times, which indicated the level of visual alertness to randomly introduced visual stimuli, revealed significant changes in the brain oscillation patterns. The results of power-frequency analysis demonstrated a relationship between variations in the EEG spectral dynamics and impaired performance in the sustained attention task. Across subjects and sessions, prolongation of the response time was preceded by an increase in the delta and theta EEG powers over the occipital region, and decrease in the beta power over the occipital and temporal regions. Meanwhile, implementation of the complex attention task paradigm into a real-world classroom setting makes it possible to investigate specific mutual links between brain activities and factors that cause impaired behavioral performance, such as development and manifestation of classroom mental fatigue. The findings of the study set a basis for developing a system capable of estimating the level of visual attention during real classroom activities by monitoring changes in the EEG spectra.

Original languageEnglish
Article number388
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - 31 Jul 2017


  • Classroom
  • EEG
  • Mental fatigue
  • Real environment
  • Response time
  • Spectral analysis
  • Sustained visual attention

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